School Choice

Yeah, this is an important point. I mentioned “less than 80%” in an earlier post, but it definitely varies by program.

$10,000 is, I believe, an above-average difference between voucher and per-pupil cost of public schools. But it’s definitely tying the charter schools’ hands. They don’t have the budget to pay teachers that the public schools have. And most public school teachers are not exactly raking it in. But their charter / private school counterparts usually make even less.

Whereas I think a lot of attempts to throw money at the problem have failed.

There are certainly some schools that are underfunded and they do need cash. But I think in most cases throwing money at the problem hasn’t fixed it.

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Yep. I can believe all the complexities you list.

The program in IA is available regardless of quality of your public school. There is no cap on numbers that I can see, so I don’t think there will be a lottery.

The effective cap is that there has to be a private school available. Lots of rural counties in IA don’t have any private option.

(Tangent – this bill didn’t pass last year due to opposition from rural R legislators. Rural publics schools are often so small they are on the edge of closing. Legislators didn’t want to encourage some new private school that would drive some public school below critical mass.)

You all are talking in code or something. Best I can tell you’re pretty convinced that poor people don’t love their children, or that they flat out don’t care about their future. In effect, they are deficient human beings. Then comes this sense of despair that it is all just unsolvable. But none of you are trying to analyze why that may be.

I’ll offer this as a possibility . What they lack is hope. No belief that they can ever succeed with the rules as they are. If that’s the case, then the solution isn’t some sort of magic cure where they all become card carrying Libertarians, or Ds or Rs. It’s a whole lot simpler than that. Check out some academic studies on the effects on human development when toddlers are exposed to stress - like food insecurity, gun violence, or abuse. It’s not good for kids.

Imo it’s worth a shot. Because whining about it (thoughts and prayers?) isn’t getting us anywhere. And blaming the “culture” like it’s some immutable condition is at best speculative.what causes this “culture?” That is the question that needs an answer.


Excellent post. Well Said.

Now I’ll change the direction a bit and throw a little bit of wood on the fire.

I am unaware of a single instance of any school system truly throwing money at the problem. Sure, there have been efforts to marginally increase school funding here and there. But it doesn’t matter if you increased the budget X% when you really need 5X-10X% more money.

I would argue that teacher pay is about 50% low. The link below shows a comparison of teacher pay to that of other jobs. Reasonable people can disagree about how underpaid teachers are, but I don’t think any school district has really tried to close this gap. Also, if your first (or even last) thought is, “but teachers only work 9 months a year”, you’re not having serious discussion about the problem.

The points being made about parental involvement are all true. Schools where parents are engaged are better. But it’s not a coincidence that those schools are also the ones with the most-well-off families and most stay-at-home parents. How engaged can the parents be if they’re both working and struggling to get by? Does a kid deserve a worse education because his dad isn’t around and his mom is working 2 jobs? Schools where the students’ home lives are more difficult need significantly more resources. I’d love to be wrong, but I don’t think we’ve really tried to address that problem. (And I freely admit that issue goes way beyond school funding.)

I understand that it’s hard to hear “schools need more money” when education is the first or second largest line-item in almost every state & local budget. But just because it’s a large proportion of the budget doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near enough.


So the schools that are “sucessful” today. The ones with the “most-well-off families and most stay-at-home parents”, are those school under-funded? Are those teachers underpaid?

How many of the kids in the poor performing schools actually fit your description of absent father and mom working 2 jobs. How many are just absent father and welfare-stay-at-home moms? Have you ever compared the funding levels of inter-city schools compared to suburban schools. Here’s a quick summary: Inner-city schools typically receive much more funding and have much lousier results.

It’s not funding. It’s cultural. Those that want to escape are given an additional resource when the funding is attached to the child and not the school.

Looking at my state, the teacher salaries in those schools are substantially higher than the teacher salaries in schools in less privileged areas. But yes, they are still underpaid. Anyone choosing to teach math instead of working as an actuary is leaving an awful lot of money on the table. And I would say the skills required to be an actuary and to teach high school math are similar, and the math teacher provides more value to society.

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I’m not sure who the “you’re” is. For example, I don’t think I said anything about “poor people”. The Iowa law isn’t restricted to particular income levels beyond the first two years.

In order.
Very well funded. The school district where we raised the little gnomes had ample funds. My son traveled many times across the country competing in forensic debate. School had a full time debate coach and an ample budget for travel expenses. The funds were donated by residents, not taxed. And the taxes were huge. I paid about $35k/ yr in property taxes and we had no police or fire department, as we were a tiny school district within a 30 minute commute of Grand Central station.
The average salary of the K-6 teachers was over $100k. They taught Latin and all AP courses. I’d guess that even with a graduating class of less than 120 students, the HS maxed out on admissions to the Ivys, it was a rarefied environment. But wealthy by any measure.

It was all within the rules. A small district (which had no bus service to avoid state level interference). A group of citizens that voluntarily raised their own taxes, preferring that to private schools. All based on the concept local funding and careful reading of the regs. We had a lot of Wall Street lawyers in the community. Those blokes are amazing at working the rules.

So yeah, money and influence played a big role. Doesn’t it always? Wake up, smell the coffee.

  • for those of you that may not have kids, private school tuition is generally not deductible from FIT. Local taxes are. My effective property tax was about 70% of that $35k. Which meant I got 2 kids in effectively private school instruction for $12.5k/ child. A bargain. If you are playing the game, read the rules.
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And yet. 50% of the 99 IA counties have no private schools. That’s in the article you posted. And IA is not very representative of the US demographic today? 89% white…wow. I’m sure the environment appeals to some, but hardly a beacon of hope.

A poor choice on which to base a national policy, and certainly not a model for big city culture issues.

Who is suggesting basing national policy on Iowa??? (heck they can’t even add up votes for their caucuses). Perhaps you conveniently overlooked my comments about “laboratories of democracy”.

I know actuaries love to get their hands on some data. here’s a nice website. Feel free to pick and choose the data which best supports your argument.

I’ll start. Let’s pick a mid-range state (unlike the extremes of NY and Iowa) and go look at Georgia. The Atlanta Public schools have one of the highest expenditures/pupil in Georgia - but some of the worst performing schools. The highest performing school districts in metro-Atlanta (i.e. Cobb, Fulton, Gwinnett) have $/pupil in the mid-range. Extra funding doesn’t seem to be helping there.

You got one at the zip code level? That would be more to the point. State level is weak sauce.

And where did I ever say anything about school funding is too little? I think the method of funding is wacky. But I am silent on the proper amount.

My issue is with this crazy notion that I hear all the time. “We want equality of opportunity, not rigid measures of equality of outcome” I hear this all the time. Great! But the cost of equal opportunity is unimaginable high. Correcting for the differences in environment is tantamount to restructuring our entire social welfare system. I’ll take a big Ixnobber on that rick-i-zicki. If you meant to imply with your post that all school funding should be done at the state level rather than local property tax, I’m all ears. Collect all the dollars and distribute it. I’d entertain that. But the current rules are a joke if you truly want equality of opportunity.

Your little gnomes certainly seem to have benefited from a nice work-around on taxes vs private tuition. I have to think that the current SALT deduction limit of $10,000 took away a lot of the attractiveness, but I’m also thinking that high powered attorneys found a new work-around.

Turn the financial incentive on it’s head, pay kids to get good grades.

Might do some good, but at least in schools with mix of economic statuses, would give most of the reward to the richer kids. [tan]any merit to targeted incentives for learning correct use of its?[/tan]

The suckage of any school is the number of parents whose kids go to that school who don’t give a shit. That’s it. It has nothing to do with the quality of the education or the teachers, it’s 100% the quality of the parent. We’ve been led to believe this is not true that we are failing kids as a society. Maybe we are but if no one cares at home the investment to fix that is way more substantial than the cost of paying for that kids school for a year.

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So, you do understand. American culture creates a barrier to success for poor people. The mythos of rugged individualism and selfish capitalism within an economic framework built on excess consumption prevents those without any excess to not participate in society. We can’t seem to fund the needs of the poor because the wants of the rich are so important.


I think he was referring to Stephen King’s monster “It.”

This all makes sense.
But, it doesn’t seem related to my post where I was asking if I was the person who was talking about “poor” culture.