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January, 2014

  1. Responsive Schools — Ostrom

    January 31, 2014 by Tunya

    Can citizens effectively and efficiently manage their own affairs?  Their own schools? Can self-governance work in education? YES, there is this hope for schools — provided there is limited central state interference and provided powerful special self-interest insiders don’t dominate.

    That is the message Elinor Ostrom, a co-winner in 2009 Nobel Economics prize, passes on to help empower people at local levels to 1) challenge outsiders and self-interests, and 2) confidently evolve the procedures, rules, and oversight which serve their interests.  She cautions against any one-size-fits-all model. Local people, local governance.


    While Ostrom’s work has usually dealt with user-managed fish stocks, pastures, woods, lakes, and groundwater basins, she has also been embraced by development workers, especially in third world countries.  Her general principles apply to any area where citizens manage their own projects — without the heavy fist of the state or the invisible hand of the market.

    Ostrom distinguishes the three methods of provision:  public, private, and civil. She sees more citizens becoming involved in policy analysis and application if they are to avoid becoming “the objects of an authoritarian regime” or exploited for profit.

    Self-governing, adaptive organizations follow these principles:

    1.  Balance power at many levels within the structure (checks and balances)
    2.  Monitor performances and hold designated persons accountable
    3.  Accept conflict as healthy, indicating need for mediation or more problem-solving
    4.  Empower citizens and communities with enforceable rights to check abuses of authority

  2. Rent-seeking & teacher unions

    January 30, 2014 by Tunya

    The term rent-seeking is defined as when teacher unions prefer different school inputs than parents primarily because their

    objectives are not solely the maximization of student achievement.

    Hoxby, C. M. 1996. “How Teacher Unions Affect Education Production.” Quarterly

    Journal of Economics, v11: pp670-718. 

    The results indicate that “mobile” parents may be able to pressure teachers into accepting lower budget increases, higher levels of effort, and add fewer administrative encumbrances. Hoxby concludes that unions are primarily rent seeking

    and may be a primary means in which the lack of district competition leads to an increase in inputs and worse student performance. Instead, these results arguably suggest that teachers unions effectively separate their rent-seeking quality from their role as educators.    

    Those opposed to teachers unions argue that they have separate agendas from

    improving education quality. Hoxby (1996) argues that, aside from their goal of

    improving education quality, teachers unions have a rent-seeking attribute—they prefer

    different school inputs than parents primarily because their objectives are not solely the Castelo 5

    maximization of student achievement. This rent-seeking quality could prevent optimal

    inputs from entering the educational system. For example, teachers unions tend to dislike

    the use of merit pay and tend to oppose anything that induces competition among schools

    or teachers

  3. 40 yrs ago — More recommendations

    January 29, 2014 by Tunya

    Why is your education Ministry reluctant to seriously increase funding, as demanded by so many?

    The reason is that most ALL Ministries are relatively well-connected to each other, and they ALL see the writing on the wall.

    More cost efficiencies are the serious issue, thus talk of abolishing small school boards into regions, or moving to mayor control . . . The bloated administrations do NOT RELATE to student needs…..

    So, as the systems implode, I'll keep showing how recommendations of the past were not heeded.  Waste, narrow self-interest, corruption — all play a part today in people's cynicism about our public government education systems.

    More reccommendations from 40 years ago from Public Testimony on Public Schools

    6   State legislatures seek to coordinate all education related services.

    7   State guarantee the right of teachers to organize and negotiate on matters relating to teachers' wages, welfare, and benefits.

    8   Basic ground rules for bargaining be established to provide each side with balanced incentives to reach agreement.

    9   Align budgetary procedures to guarantee that neither side is unfairly constrained in reaching a collective bargaining agreement.

    10   Set rules and guidelines that guarantee fairness to all sides, public access, and public influence . . . open meeting laws be establilshed at all levels to encouragbe public discussion and dissemination of information.

    11  Ensure adequate and proporetional representation in the political process through the election of all local school and school council members.

    12. Appoint a task force in each state to revitalize the educational system as an accessible and responsive democratic institution providing equal educational apportunity for all.  

    [Well, I see that bringing forth these old recommendations certainly causes some “pause”.  Forgot all those parts about collective bargaining which was a teachers’ cause.  They must have seriously organized their inputs to this “citizens'” commission.  Today people complain that it is the organized teacher union movement that is a major obstacle to education responsiveness.  In contrast, the parent cause has still been left in the dust!]





  4. 40 years ago – recommendations

    January 28, 2014 by Tunya

    The Public Testimony on Public Schools made recommendations to improve American schools and their governance.

    1. Steps be taken to improve the "legislative process" in educational policy making . . . a rredistribution of responsibilities for policy decision at each legislative level — state, local district, and school.
    2. A council at each school with appropriate responsiblity and authority. The school council should b e elected and should share authority and responsibility for curriculum, school program budgeting, school progress reports, and personnel evaluation.
    3. a) Responsibility for negotiations with teachers remain with the local school board . . . provided with independent staffsor consultants to assist in analyzingthe impact of b argaining demands and in developing strategies and policies and b) School boards should seek independent advice or staff to dev elop policies that represent a balance between professional and lay concerns.
    4. A local school board establish procedures to involve the public responsibly in the process of negotiations. a) inclusion of citizens in the development of school bargainig positions; b) public hearings; c) broad dissemination and distribution of the board's position on the major bargaining issues d) open and publicized negotiations; e) press notification of meetings.
    5. State legislatures substantially increase the power of and the staff support for education committees so that there can be effective legislative monitoring. 
    6. more later 

  5. 40 yrs Ago — Have Things Changed in Education?

    January 27, 2014 by Tunya

    I'm going to draw parallels from how parents were treated 40 years ago to today.

    My first experiences of frustration and stonewalling by "the system" led me to search far and wide for help. Locally, little was available, and the PTA was, as we know, tame and in place to maintain the status quo.

    I searched the literature, and one of the first items of note was an American group, National Committee for Citizens in Education (NCCE).  They did good work on parent rights, student records and did a fabulous newspaper.  Will bring these forward from time to time.

    Note: That was 40 years ago.  Before today's quick, instant searches via Internet.

    Today, I'm just going to list the Table of Contents of their book  Public Testimony on Public Schools, 1975 to show the extent of their findings after hearings and research:

    1. School Governance in Trouble
    2. The Public Hearings: Pressure Systems
    3. The Public Hearings: The Central Issues
    4. The Public Hearings: The Underlying Concepts of Governance and Policy Making
    5. The Erosion of Lay Control
    6. Teachers' Organizations and Bargaining: Power Imbalance in the Public Sphere
    7. Alternative Educational Experiences: The Demand for Change
    8. The structure of Citizen Participation: Public Decision for Public Schools
    9. A Plan for Governance: Recommendations and Dissent

    I will start with the recommendations in a subsequent post.

    For now, I would recommend that those intently interested in this topic of parent involvement and it's history to get this book, used, as there are still copies floating around.  It provides some sense of the importance of parent involvement then, and now. The "now" is becoming VERY, VERY important — now — because we are being overwhelmed by new forces which are intent on "transforming" education for the 21st Century — with litte regard for parents.  They are being sidelined even more than ever before.  

    The only thing that will save parent rights, role and duty in the education of their children is for parents to embody the law which is on their side as having the primary responsibility for education.  Issues of parental consent will become ever more crucial.  This book will help trace the gradual and, I would say, deliberate erosion of parents in education.  

    [I will be looking, hard and long, even with the help of the Internet, for literature on how modern-day usurpers and colonialists pacify and exploit their subjects. TA]