Public Education in Oregon?. . .. nope
March 7, 2003 1:58 PM   Subscribe

Another embarrasment for Oregon. As if the government of my home state had not reached bottom, as far as actually acting in the interests of it's citizens, comes the news that the head of the State Senate Education Committee, State Senator Charles Starr, has written a letter urging his constituents to "run, don't walk" away from public schools. This from the "leader" in the state legislature for public education. This ranks with Tonya Harding and the anti-gay Oregon Citizen's alliance as another in the growing list of lowlights for Oregonians.
posted by Danf (32 comments total)
 
Oh, don't forget the part about the University of Oregon recruiting an alleged murderer (who got off as a felon) onto their football team.

I'm proud to be an Oregonian.
posted by Aikido at 2:29 PM on March 7, 2003


Starr has already apologized.

"We all say things we'd like to take back".
posted by turbodog at 2:45 PM on March 7, 2003


Well, if you as a parent receive a letter that could be interpreted as saying: "the public school system is screwed up, and NO ONE will be telling you the truth if they say it can be fixed in time for your child to benefit from it", what would *you* do?
Do you make you child attend a sub-standard system in a time of economic recession?
Do you believe that the *system* is more important than the education of *your* child?
In other words, the bottom line is IF there is a better way to educate children then in public schools in Oregon RIGHT NOW, shouldn't you, as a concerned parent, want you child to get the better education, WHETHER OR NOT you are in favor of fixing the public education system?

It is called "voting with your feet." If the public schools can recover with those parents who are satisfied with their performance, fine. But don't expect parents who want what is better for their children to downgrade their children's opportunities for the benefit *of the system*.

If public education is so good, it ought to be able to survive competition.
posted by kablam at 2:46 PM on March 7, 2003


If public education is so good, it ought to be able to survive competition.

Testify!
posted by oissubke at 2:52 PM on March 7, 2003


But kablam. . this guy is a legislator, and he sought out the job as the leader of the education committee. In Oregon, as a result of initiatives by other right-wingers like him, all school funding is controlled by the state legislature. School districts get round $5,000 per student.

Urging parents to pull their kids out of public schools depletes the already insufficient funding even more, furthering the cycle of deterioration that is well underway in public education in this state, and many others.

(Aikido. . yeah. .he's a felon but he can cover.)
posted by Danf at 3:12 PM on March 7, 2003


that last line is so succinct, kablam... kudos.
posted by shadow45 at 3:12 PM on March 7, 2003


He sounds a little nutty, but if I were a parent, I would appreciate his candor. Someone needs to say the same thing about Oakland Public Schools instead of acting like it's all getting better. Maybe that would shock our worthless school board into having the balls to change the status quo.

It would make me very sad if I didn't have the means to remove my kids from their schools, though.
posted by aacheson at 3:46 PM on March 7, 2003


Seriously, how long has it been that people have been complaining about the low quality of public education? Thirty years? forty years?
The important thing is that children are well educated, not that they are educated in a particular way.
School boards are made rotten through bad local politics. School districts become administratively bloated and wasteful. State boards of education are controlled by special interests. State legislatures...oh hell...man is the only animal that laughs and has a State legislature.
Just go ahead and say something nice about the federal government's involvement in education. I dare you.

Without competition to hold the entire system in check, it becomes an unweeded garden. The first rule of bureaucracy is to cut the meat and leave the fat, so you cannot look to government to improve what it has spoiled.
So the best you can look for is for government to get out of the way and let the children get a good education.

If people want a good education for their kids hard enough, they will get one.
posted by kablam at 4:10 PM on March 7, 2003


Hmmmm. This "Oregon" is indeed an interesting place: proposals to make health care public and education, simultaneously, within months.

No sales tax, I hear, and I seem to recall Portland taking the counterintuitive step of ripping out its freeways downtown as a way to improve traffic (but I also understand it worked).

Oregon: it's counterintuitive.
posted by namespan at 4:56 PM on March 7, 2003


The thing about Oregon is that, other than Portland, it might as well be in the south. That's why the voting record seems so counterintuitive.

I canvassed against Starr, but I respect him for having the nuts to say what everyone in the state is thinking. The state of education in Oregon is ridiculous: this year's high school class is in danger of graduating without a nationally accredited diploma, and the district still has huge cuts to make. The U of O just had to issue a tuition surcharge.

Without competition to hold the entire system in check, it becomes an unweeded garden. The first rule of bureaucracy is to cut the meat and leave the fat, so you cannot look to government to improve what it has spoiled.
So the best you can look for is for government to get out of the way and let the children get a good education


I don't know if you're from Oregon or not, kablam, so forgive me if you know this already. The Oregon State Legislature referrred a tax surchage to the voters this January; it failed miserably. The state is going to be releasing inmates from it's prisons and the mentally ill from it's hospitals, and letting more than 100 state troopers go.

And as you want competition, it just doesn't hold up. Even with vouchers for kids attending private schools (which would pick up around a quarter of the cost of tuition, in Oregon), most families cannot afford them.

If people want a good education for their kids hard enough, they will get one

How, by clicking our heels together three times? The way we've provided a good education for the majority is to make education public; it works, too, when you fund it.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 5:09 PM on March 7, 2003


Not trying to debate Iraq or any specific war conflict, but to me the hypocrisy of public education funding is always seen any time there's a debate about increasing military spending. Last time I checked, we didn't have the strongest and most efficient military in the entire world because all the soldiers' parents were allowed to take advantage of competition among private training programs.

Yelling at Nothing's totally right. Public schools get better when public schools get better funding- without threats of removal for "inefficiency," and certainly without adding even more stress to our nation's educators by worrying them about being replaced by private contractors.

One look at the magnificent boner that is Defense Funding on the U.S.'s budget bar graph and the numerous cuts in countless programs, Education included, to keep it up explains a lot about why our schools aren't doing well.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:36 PM on March 7, 2003


This is exactly why there should not be vouchers. If students weren't leaving with their vouchers, there would be money to put back into the schools.

Lets face the facts that parents have to ultimately accept responsibility for their elected school boards. If you disapprove, make your voice heard. I know, it's a hassle having to actually be a parent and do things like going to board meetings. After all, parents should only get involved when it involves sports or something fun, not something serious like the actual education they are supposed to be getting. That is someone else's problem.

Or we could give them vouchers, because we know that there is an overabundence of secular private schools available. There aren't? Oh. Well, I guess we can send them to a Catholic school, even though we are (Circle One: Muslim / Jewish/ Athiest / Hindu / Buhdist / Pagan / Other), because the state says out public schools suck, and they don't want to fund them.

Now here is a wacky idea. Your state is out of money, you have to eliminate 99% of services, and people are still voting against taxes because it might cut into their gas money for their Ford Bohemoth. Raise taxes. Don't ask, just raise them. It doesn't matter is people 'want taxes' because no one does. But they are a necessity of life. It's how the government runs, and without taxes, the government can't run.
posted by benjh at 5:44 PM on March 7, 2003


Kablam. . .go into any local public school and show me the fat. . . .most are into the flesh, or bone with their cuts.

And as far as competition. . .public schools are legally (and rightly) required to serve a large range of students with a large range of needs. . . that is something that private and charter schools do not do.

So it is comparing apples and oranges. . .public schools cannot do as efficient a job as private and charter schools because they have far more needs to meet and this takes staff. .and that is money. ..

Starr wants so post the ten commandments in all classrooms in oregon public schools and seems to care about little else that goes on inside schools. It is interesting to see you aligning yourself with him.
posted by Danf at 5:56 PM on March 7, 2003


No matter what you think of this argument so far, let me inject a really hideous thought of what public education might become in the future. Now, on the surface it might seem an apples and oranges argument, but, hoping that I'm wrong, please lend a thought to this comparison:

Mental Healthcare. Back in the 1960s, States had huge warehouses of the mentally ill, which they were forced to release by court order after a huge fight. But then the States discovered they saved a ton of money by *not* taking care of the mentally ill, just minimum outpatient services or putting them in prison, instead. A shame which still exists today.

Today, education is THE #1 line item for every state in the US. But if the virtual monopoly that is public education is broken, how many of you trust your state legislature to NOT say, "Hey! We'd save a TON OF MONEY if we subcontracted ALL education to private companies!"

Before you say "they would never do that!", think about the privatization of prisons. What would your legislators do with the billions they currently spend on education if they could spend it on pork instead? I mean, they sure spent all that tobacco settlement money wisely, didn't they?
posted by kablam at 7:03 PM on March 7, 2003


This is exactly why there should not be vouchers. If students weren't leaving with their vouchers, there would be money to put back into the schools.

The concern is valid, but I think the analysis might not be deep enough. My understanding is that most voucher programs are founded on the premise that you only get part of your state alloted education dollars back if you ask for a voucher for a child. Thus, per pupil-funding goes up.

Now, that's good, but obviously not the whole story. While many people (esp. politicians) like to use that as a talking point, I've seen stats that strongly imply there's no correlation between test scores and PPF. Furthermore, there's the problem that many school facilities and organizations are geared towards operating at a given size, and below a certain pupil population, there's a financial inefficiency problem. West Side High still has to heat the building and pay utilities and maintenance regardless of whether 500 students show up or the capacity of 1500.

But... (wait, watch me play tennis on both sides for yet another round) ... back to the studies. Apparently, there IS something that has a correlation with higher test scores: smaller, moderately sized schools -- much more strongly than even smaller _classrooms_ (which don't have much correlation at all once you get past a barely practical single-digit number). So as it turns out, larger schools are an educational inefficiency, if not an operational one. The good things about vouchers is that they would probably take us the right direction as far as school size goes. The really hard problem is how to manage the shock to a school system heavily invested in running at a larger scale until it was able to adjust. This is a reasonable concern. (And I wish more people would look at it that way instead of either "the free market will solve all our problems" or "vouchers will be cold-blooded murder to our public school system.")

Kablam. . .go into any local public school and show me the fat. . . .most are into the flesh, or bone with their cuts.

Software and I/T, in some places: yes, computer literacy is important, but older HW and software (not to mention open source) suffices for basic, and nobody should be learning powerpoint in school. Textbooks, believe it or not, in others. Yes, you need new ones sometimes, but the current market is a racket and they're often a crutch for teachers anyway. Operational innefficiencies, here and there. It's there. I've seen it. I've worked within it. I don't think it's really anything the state will address easily. I do think a market could

So it is comparing apples and oranges. . .public schools cannot do as efficient a job as private and charter schools because they have far more needs to meet and this takes staff. .and that is money. ..

Public schools have this trouble in part because they're trying to focus on the needs of too many different kinds of students. Breaking them off into schools that can focus might help.

Again, I hope I made it clear I realize it could be painful for public schools, and the idea isn't without its problems, and if there's a voucher probram started anywhere, this needs to be carefully addressed in the crafting of policy, and watched like a hawk. State schools can never be eliminated, and regulation can't go away. But the voucher idea could go a long way to relieving pressure on the public school system and bringing innovation to education and practices of organizations who administer it.
posted by namespan at 7:03 PM on March 7, 2003


and nobody should be learning powerpoint in school.

Why the fuck not? I'm sticking with my military comparison here. There would be "moral outrage" if a Senator suggested we save money by training our military with nothing but 20-year old equipment. Our children should know that the USSR isn't on the map as soon as the army does. It took my school system four years and that's inexcusable.

There is absolutely no reason with the importance of technology today, especially the need for computer knowledge in future careers, that every public school in this country shouldn't have internet access and some kind of office suite applications. Knowing how to type and yes- work in Powerpoint- is what gave me a summer job at an office instead of McDonald's. So yeah, sell a nuclear submarine and bring on the slideshows, pronto.

Public schools have this trouble in part because they're trying to focus on the needs of too many different kinds of students. Breaking them off into schools that can focus might help.

That's what college and after-school programs are for, and the focus would work if everyone in this country who was qualified was able to go. Public school is there to give students the necessary general requirements along with their unique extra interests with the spare room- a room that is rapidly shrinking. The only reason schools are "having trouble" with (gasp!) individuality is that they're trying to stifle it to avoid the numerous programs that students deserve but the school board can't afford. If my high school didn't need to cancel one of the art classes to keep auto shop funded, they wouldn't be worrying as much about "focusing on many needs" either. And I'm one of the lucky ones who simply had to choose between which elective to cut- there are schools that are cancelling band and art class to keep the math program going.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:27 PM on March 7, 2003


The Oregon State Legislature referrred a tax surchage to the voters this January; it failed miserably.

It failed along rural/urban lines--you're absolutely right about the attitude of most of Oregon outside Portland. That's why the city hunkered down, negotiated, and got school days restored. Portlanders wanted to fund their schools.

Starr (and believe it or not, we also have a Dem senator named Charlie Ringo) is following the party line of attacking public schools to make headway for voucher programs. It's the worst way to accomplish the task, and irresponsible of him in his position. But not surprising. I think he may have spouted a party line without thinking in this case. His ideas on the front of his page seem sound, and I would hope he'd move forward with a little more work and lot less whinging.
posted by frykitty at 7:44 PM on March 7, 2003


And as far as competition. . .public schools are legally (and rightly) required to serve a large range of students with a large range of needs. . . that is something that private and charter schools do not do.

Hmm, here in Massachusetts this is certainly not the case for charter schools. All students with all needs must be accepted.

Yelling at Nothing's totally right. Public schools get better when public schools get better funding- without threats of removal for "inefficiency," and certainly without adding even more stress to our nation's educators by worrying them about being replaced by private contractors.

Not always, out here the school districts funding has more than doubled in the last 10 years but by most measures the academic performance of the schools have declined. At what point do you stop throwing money at a non-working solution?
posted by dhacker at 9:05 PM on March 7, 2003


CNet on Oregon and open source article here.

apparently, there is some hope.
posted by shadow45 at 10:34 PM on March 7, 2003


Thus, per pupil-funding goes up.

Start with a public school where operating expenses equal government money (number of students times direct expense per student plus fixed expenses). Vouchers will not harm the school so long as the credit is limited to

x < R

where
x = voucher credit as a percentage of tax revenue for schools
R = money spent directly on students divided by total expenses

If you can satisfy this on a school-by-school basis, I'll support vouchers. However, overcrowded schools where less money is spent per pupil will receive the least benefit (or lose the most, if the voucher exceeds the above limit).
posted by eddydamascene at 11:07 PM on March 7, 2003


*less money per pupil relative to their share of total expenses
posted by eddydamascene at 11:11 PM on March 7, 2003


XQ:
and nobody should be learning powerpoint in school
Why the fuck not?


I'm certainly not promoting entirely dropping software and I/T from schools -- but I do think there's a lot of fat there. I'm picking on powerpoint specifically because I think it's a poster child for what can go wrong with introducing a fairly powerful media communications tool into an educational environment. It's so easy to focus on the use of the flashy presentation features that you can overlook other principles of good presentation: solid exploration and understanding of ideas, clear articulation of those ideas using words, good speechgiving habits (anyone who has worked a while in a corporate setting can appreciate the fact that lots of people incorrectly think they're communicating when they use Powerpoint). You can do with posters and overheads nearly everything important about Powerpoint. The fact that it's also an expensive product whose cost for a classroom full of licenses could probably pay for 2-3 more teachers further sours me on it.

(Now Flash, on the other hand.... : )

I'm sticking with my military comparison here. There would be "moral outrage" if a Senator suggested we save money by training our military with nothing but 20-year old equipment.

In most fields, by the time you reach state-of-the-art and/or scholarly mastery of everything up to 20 years ago, you are well beyond what's concievable to introduce in public schools. The military is a totally different game.

The only exception in education I can think of seems to be software and information technology. And even that fact is mitigated by two considerations: (1) underlying principles are much the same as they were 20 years ago. I learned assembly language on a microprocessor trainer that had to have been from the late 70s. It was just as effective as working on the Motorola 68020 based boxes the school had later. (2) Schools could easily cut costs significantly by using 3-5 year old technology without sacrificing much of the relevant capability. Word Processing? Spreadsheets? Presentations? Programming? Multimedia? The basics are all there ten years ago, let alone 5. In the hands of a capable educator, you can't exhaust the subject matter explorable with 5-10 year old tech (and in the hands of even a mildly deficient educator, you can't get much learning out of this year's).

Our children should know that the USSR isn't on the map as soon as the army does. It took my school system four years and that's inexcusable.

I can see the point, but ... If this means a school district has to spend thousands on brand-new textbooks and shiny 8' x 6' maps for hundreds of clasrooms every year, then perhaps that isn't the right way to go about it. By at least the time a student gets to the secondary level, they ought to know that sometimes the sources of info they have closest access to can be outdated (and wrong), and how to go looking. If it means a new set of atlases in the library each year, maybe that's a good idea. Or there's always the net -- but if we're buying a hundred brand new screaming fast Dells running Win XP, we're hitting overkill. Hit the surplus sale down the street instead.

There is absolutely no reason with the importance of technology today, especially the need for computer knowledge in future careers, that every public school in this country shouldn't have internet access and some kind of office suite applications.

Again:

(1) Technology is much less important than critical thinking and communication skills.
(2) Requisite technology (ie, office suite & internet access) is quite available using relatively aged tech. I'm typing this from a three year old computer and don't miss a single Mhz of speed. The software I'm using is fairly current, but everything I'm using that's newer than 3 years old is freely available, so it's not subject to budget arguments.

eddydamascene: we're saying the same thing, basically -- vouchers won't hurt, up to a point, and then they will. Larger schools will hurt the worst, because they have the highest fixed operating costs (though some of the overcrowded schools would probably get both educational and financial relief from having to manage a number of students facilities and staff aren't designed to). What we may disagree on is where that painful point is, and whether or not there's a way to manage the squeeze that would inevitably come when you hit it, and make the transition to a wider network of smaller, hopefully better schools.
posted by namespan at 12:08 AM on March 8, 2003


If it means a new set of atlases in the library each year, maybe that's a good idea. Or there's always the net -- but if we're buying a hundred brand new screaming fast Dells running Win XP, we're hitting overkill. Hit the surplus sale down the street instead.

Another turn of phrase occured to me regarding this after I posted. Education is as much or more about developing resourceful individuals as it is about giving individuals access to specific resources. If the specific resources are a means to that end and there's a clear link, then it's a well-justified educational expense. If not...
posted by namespan at 12:12 AM on March 8, 2003


One last correction:
overcrowded schools where less money is spent per pupil schools with the least amount of money left over after operating expenses and salaries.

What we may disagree on is where that painful point is, and whether or not there's a way to manage the squeeze that would inevitably come when you hit it, and make the transition to a wider network of smaller, hopefully better schools.

Just to be clear, what popped out of the math was that the voucher credit has to be below a certain value, independent of the number of students that opt out (second opinion anybody? i checked the derivative of the expense to income ratio as a function of students opting out). If you're not conservative with the credit, some schools will lose money for every student who opts out.

I haven't been following the voucher debate, but I would be very interested to see some numbers to justify it. What would a voucher credit look like compared to the amount of money you pay in taxes that go directly your kid's school? How do school expenses change with a decreasing student population?
posted by eddydamascene at 12:51 AM on March 8, 2003


Schools could easily cut costs significantly by using 3-5 year old technology without sacrificing much of the relevant capability

Do you think they are using modern technology now? At my high school (in Portland), typing and basic data entry was taught using Apple 2Es. Why? Because there literally were not enough computers for the classes, and the Apples were what they had. Most of the rest of the computers in the place did not use tower cases; they were P2 250s at best. The school had a few old iMacs, donated at 10% their purchase price to build the brand name. Think they were quality machines? Now, on these machines were used for internet access, photo editing, publishing a newspaper and yearbook (Adobe PageMaker is a great piece of software, but try running it on a P2), graphic design, and three dimensional rendering (AutoCAD.)

Conervatives in Oregon have been making the "cut the fat" argument for ten years. And they've been cutting it. Now we have public schools that have to close because there might be an excess of cancer-causing chemicals in the insulation in their walls. We still had maps that include the USSR. Textbooks, like the one I used in AP Physics, are twenty years out of date and useless. New material every year? I'd settle for new material every five. What fat there was is gone.

You're right, a great teacher can make do. And I had some. But even the great ones have trouble making more than $45,000 a year in Oregon, and they're looking at making less. Why should they stay around?

vouchers won't hurt, up to a point, and then they will

If they don't take enough money to hurt the public school, then they're useless. Vouchers returning what the public pays in school taxes every year simply will not pay the tuition of a private school.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 1:20 AM on March 8, 2003


Everyone wants everything from an education system, but they don't want to pay for it. They want small-classes, new buildings, current books, good teachers. But you can't always have everything.

For instance, when I was in school, I had one class that had 9 people in it. This wasn't a bad number, but I think dialog would have went better had we had more like 20-25 people in it. Smaller the class, better the education; it doesn't always work that way.

New buildings. Everyone wants them. But are they needed? Recently my old school district went for a 65 million dollar bond issue to build new buildings, but their's were already in great shape. They kept saying, "we're only paying half, the state is paying the rest." I could say, "look what a deal on this house, its a million dollars, but its half off." Doesn't mean I can still afford it just because it is half off. Yes, some buildings need to be replaced. Some need repairs. But fix before you destroy. Especially in the case of a masonry block building that has been around for over 100 years and is still in great condition, and not in a flood plain.

Books. Let's look at Maine's iBook Program (nyt) which has been declared a success. Educational publishers are getting on this new concept as well. You buy a set of books, and you can transfer them between computers, no hardcopies. Not only is this great for learning and keeping materials current (no more stagnating hardcopy) but it's easier for the students to carry, and you'll know this if you've ever crammed 7 textbooks and 5 binders into a backpack like I used to have to do.)

Teachers. Pay the poor people, and realize how much of their own money they are spending on supplies.

It is also a matter of scale. Your city-based school systems might have 20 school buildings, and your suburban systems have 3-4. Well, now everyone is abandoning their city core for their suburban lives. At the same time, they are moving their children into school districts that are just not equipped to handle this many students. If people would stop fleeing from the city core, we would not be having the problems we are having today. People would rather run away from their problems with the city than fight and try to make things better. I have no sympathy for a parent who takes their child out of a city core performing school and places them in an overcrowded suburban school with 4000 students in a building built for 800. I do have sympathy for the child, who is yanked from the city and taken to somewhere where they become trapped in their own homes, because tghe average teenager under 16 has some freedom, but can't walk to anywhere because everything is so far away. And I think this really is what it comes down to in the end, is people abandoning their cities for their SUV/Suburb/White Bread new lives.
posted by benjh at 7:55 AM on March 8, 2003


Do you think they are using modern technology now? At my high school (in Portland), typing and basic data entry was taught using Apple 2Es. Why? Because there literally were not enough computers for the classes, and the Apples were what they had.

Apple ][e's are completely sufficient for teaching typing and data entry (in fact, I learned to type on... a typewriter! And later, Apple ][e's).

Most of the rest of the computers in the place did not use tower cases; they were P2 250s at best. The school had a few old iMacs, donated at 10% their purchase price to build the brand name. Think they were quality machines? Now, on these machines were used for internet access, photo editing, publishing a newspaper and yearbook (Adobe PageMaker is a great piece of software, but try running it on a P2), graphic design, and three dimensional rendering (AutoCAD.)

Five years ago, nearly everybody who was doing internet access, photo editing, CAD, and page layout was doing it on machines less powerful than a P2 250 or an iMac. My sister was doing yearbook layout using Pagemaker 5 and Quark (3.x?) on Mac LCs. The slowest iMac would probably be a tenfold factor of improvement over that. Yes, it would be dog slow running Adobe's latest version of InDesign on Jaguar, but why does a school need to do that -- when the job can, in fact, be done on Pagemaker 5?

Conervatives in Oregon have been making the "cut the fat" argument for ten years. And they've been cutting it. Now we have public schools that have to close because there might be an excess of cancer-causing chemicals in the insulation in their walls. We still had maps that include the USSR.

OK, clearly if you don't have money to address environmental hazards, that's a problem, and if, five years later, you didn't have at least some resources with a map of the world that isn't more than a year old, that's a problem. But......

Textbooks, like the one I used in AP Physics, are twenty years out of date and useless.

No. I have on my bookshelf a first edition Halliday and Resnick Principles of Physics text -- standard college pre-engineering coursework. I used the third and fourth editions when I was in college, but I own the first. And you know what? It's practically the same book. There are a few pedagogical refinements, but the principles of physics within the scope of an undergraduate education were the same in the 70s.

I am saying this not only as a student but as a former teacher. The basic quality of the text (and the teacher using it), not its recentness, is what matters most in secondary education.

Books. Let's look at Maine's iBook Program (nyt) which has been declared a success.

By what metric? From what I understand, the success so far is simply in the fact the loss/breakage hasn't been a problem, and people like them. No educational benefits have been measured that I'm a ware of.

Educational publishers are getting on this new concept as well. You buy a set of books, and you can transfer them between computers, no hardcopies. Not only is this great for learning and keeping materials current (no more stagnating hardcopy) but it's easier for the students to carry, and you'll know this if you've ever crammed 7 textbooks and 5 binders into a backpack like I used to have to do.)

I do see this as having potential. There is, of course, the issue of how publishers will handle licensing, not to mention the ergonomics of electronic texts vs physical ones, but I think this area has some promise.

eddydamascene: Facility costs are fixed for a school, more or less, unless they're built in such a way that you can shut off a portion of the school and not have to worry about utilities and maintenance. It seems to me that just about every other cost, however, is a function of number of students. The number of teachers you need, the number of texts and other individual resources. It's not necessarily linear, and probably very step-ish, but still a function of the number of students.

I'm not sure I have a better articulated economic/mathematical argument at this point, so I'll probably shut up (and the thread is probably dying anyway).
posted by namespan at 11:25 AM on March 8, 2003


On the Maine iBook program: there have been some concrete, measured benifits -- a stunning reduction in the necessity of disciplinary action, for example. I'm fairly sure test scores have improved, as well.
posted by Tlogmer at 2:38 PM on March 8, 2003


Now we have public schools that have to close because there might be an excess of cancer-causing chemicals in the insulation in their walls.

Specify this, OK?
posted by Danf at 2:43 PM on March 8, 2003


Here is a good sumamry, Danf. My original comment should have said "might hace to close," but it's still alarming.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 3:05 PM on March 8, 2003


namespan, I lost your email -- I don't really have any information beyond what I posted above. One problem I realized with that analysis is that it doesn't take in account lost revenue from those already in private schools. Also, as you said, the scaling of school budgets is also a complicated matter, and a linear approximation may not do the problem justice.
posted by eddydamascene at 2:49 PM on March 10, 2003


My local school district here in Ohio is now forcing students (read: their parents) who wish to play in extracurricular sports to pay a fee for *each* sport they play.

But the computer lab is fresh.

They tossed out 25 computers because someone dropped a Novell virus on the network. I guess nobody's heard of "format c:"

By the way, my school district is one of the top in the nation. Scary thought.
posted by cinematique at 10:56 AM on March 11, 2003


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