Friday, September 30, 2011

Links for Sptember 30

Sorry for the lack of links the past couple of days--it has been a very busy week.  Anyway, we have a bunch for you below the fold.

And don't forget Stan Glantz's post on UC privatization immediately below!

Cal State Faculty Union asks for a strike authorization after administration refuses to pay negotiated salaries.

The Bay Guardian raises the simple question:  why didn't the SF Chronicle run Peter Byrne's story on the Regents?

Hate Crimes at UC Berkeley rose last year.

Marcy Wheeler and Glen Greenwald offer analyses of why the corporate media is proving so hostile to Occupy Wall Street and what that tells us.

While Yves Smith and Jonathan Turley wonder what has happened to civil liberties.

Still Occupy Wall Street goes on and explores new forms of dissent.   And the airline pilots approve.

Other New York Labor Unions are joining in as well.

Occupy Wall Street has issues a Declaration.

In California school districts and administrators are challenging the budget agreement in court.  You can find more on this story at the LAT.

Brown is considering bill on to allow more diversity considerations in admissions.

George Breslauer explains what makes a public university. (scroll down) (h/t to Cloudminder)

House Republicans push to cut back on the Pell Grant Program.

Growing Debate over the proper focus for General Ed.

US incomes fell last month.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Problem is Privatization, and it Can be Reversed

by Stanton A. Glantz, Professor of Medicine, UCSF

    UC (and CSU’s) ongoing financial problems are not a result of the fact that alumni are not generous, they are the result of the failed policy of privatization that UC has been following since shortly after Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor.  Schwarzenegger pursued an aggressive policy of privatization designed to shift the cost of higher education away from taxpayers on to students and their families. The increases in fees, while annually presented as a response to ongoing budgetary problems, were established as policy within the Compact for Higher Education that the governor signed with the presidents of the University of California and California State University in 2005.  The Compact implemented the governor's free-market ideology: A college or professional education meant higher earnings, and if people wanted those higher earnings they should be willing to pay for the necessary. State funding for education was not viewed as a responsibility to the next generation of Californians but rather as a "subsidy" which distorted the free market for education.

    While I do not believe that our current governor, Jerry Brown, shares former governor Schwarzenegger's ideological position, the reality is that he is not given public higher education priority and, indeed, has accelerated the budget cuts and push to privatization.

    Some University leaders have welcomed the changes, sharing the previous governor's view that privatization was a good thing that would allow the University more freedom, unfettered by the responsibilities and constraints of a public institution. Others remained committed to the idea of a public university, but felt that, given California's requirement for a two thirds vote for taxes in the state legislature combined with a rabid antitax position of the Republican minority in the legislature, privatization was inevitable.  These people reluctantly saw the idea of restoring the University of California to its preeminence as a public institution of higher education as unrealistic wishful thinking.

    Whatever the reason, the university's leadership has been remarkably mute in making the case for the kind of high-quality, accessible public higher education institution at the University of California served the people of California so well since UC President Clark Kerr conceived the Master Plan for Higher Education over 50 years ago.

    As a result, UC’s leadership sees increases in fees as the only “reliable” option for paying the bills.  Raising enough money to restore the quality UC had in 2000 will require raising fees to over $17,000

    Meanwhile there has been a disconnect between the rhetoric and expectations of both  political and university leaders. On one hand, the politicians have demanded that the university act like a public institution – keeping fees low, paying people as public employees – without providing the money necessary to keep UC a truly public institution.  On the other hand, many in the University wanted to run it like a private institution while taking the public funds for a long as possible.

    The reality is that this situation is a recipe for disaster. The simple fact is that the kind of support provided by the people of California to the University's academic mission and to its ability to serve as a truly independent source of research simply cannot be replaced with private funding or partnerships with business or other parts of government. The net effect of the failure to recognize this fact, which was spelled out clearly in the University systemwide Academic Senate Committee on Planning and Budget in its 2006  "Futures" report was that declining funding would require the university to either shrink, become very expensive, or decline in quality. The fact is that, despite our best efforts, all of these things have been happening and will continue to happen if nothing changes.

    The most frustrating aspect of this situation is that it would not cost all that much money to fix the situation. According to a calculation done two years ago,  pushing the "reset" button on the entire system of higher education in California -- rolling fees back to where they were in 2000 (adjusted for inflation), returning the level of state support per student to where it was in 2000, and providing funding for all of the students who have been forced out of the system -- for the entire higher education system from the community colleges to graduate and professional education at the University of California would only cost the median tax return $32. And that's $16 a person for a joint return.

    Yes, it would cause people who made more money more. People in the top 5% of California with adjusted gross incomes of $400-$500,000 a year, would pay $2800.

    Unless they want to go down as the people who led UC off a cliff through a combination of accepting unrealistic right-wing ideology and political cowardice, it is time for the University leadership to stop acting like executives at a financially failing corporation and start acting like stewards of a public trust and, as UC leaders have done in the past, mobilizing the public to force the governor to provide the kind of high quality affordable higher education that he and the state’s other political leaders enjoyed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Links for Sptember 27

English Academics respond to the Government's plans.  They have done so by offering an alternative vision of higher ed.

In a bold bid for the future, Texas may eliminate 1/2 of its undergraduate physics programs.

The recession has made income inequality in California even greater than it was before.

Faculty group releases proposal to change undergrad education at Berkeley.

Protest over Berkeley Republicans' "diversity" Bake Sale.

In case you were curious about what "Occupy Wall Street" looks like.  Because you sure won't get anything from the established media.  Although the NYT will be happy to tell you why you shouldn't care.

Hey David Brooks, math really does matter!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Links for September 26

More on the Irvine 11 case.

Bob Samuels Reports from Washington.

Bob also comments on the President's "jobs bill."

Brown considering second part of California's Dream Act.  There is a lot of pressure over the question of financial aid.

It looks like David Crane's time on the Board of Regents is coming to an end.

But Crane is still continuing his fight to bust Public Employee Unions and people's pension plans.

The New York Times notices that there is a tuition crisis at UC. (h/t to Dan Mitchell)

Live Blogging on Occupy Wall Street.

The NYT condescends to Occupy Wall Street.

And why didn't the NYT notice this?

Looks like "right to work" doesn't solve everything: South hit especially hard in the lesser depression.

Ed Miliband accused of caving on Student Fees in England.

US News & World Report doesn't see any reason to change its rankings despite criticisms.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Links for September 23

Important developments in the Irvine 11 case and Berkeley protests, Jerry signs the amazon bill, UC Davis is expanding, and nostalgia for shared governance.  That and other news and analysis below the fold.

Irvine 11 Convicted.  Will face Probation.

Live-blog of Berkeley Day of Action.

Video of Berkeley Day of Action.

Additional Coverage of Berkeley Day of Action.

Jerry Brown signs the compromise between Amazon and the Legislature.

Berkeley Faculty Association Statement in Defense of Public Education.

UC Davis announces plans to increase out of state enrollments dramatically.

Charlie Schwartz has again tried to get the Regents to rethink their budget assumptions.

Dan Simmons remembers Shared Governance. 

Bowling Green faculty release evidence that Bowling Green's administration helped write legislation banning unionization after faculty voted to join a union.

Are for-profit colleges targeting military veterans?

Obama Administration reveals how to get wavers from NCLB: You have to do what Arne Duncan wants.

Tax Policy and Growing Inequality:  Where did the Social Contract Go?

Elizabeth Warren points out that no one becomes a millionaire on their own.

UK Teachers' Union Chief pushes back at Cameron and Grove for Teacher-bashing.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Links for September 22

Lots of Links today so I have put them below the fold to save front page space.  Don't forget Chris' recent post on the Regents immediately below this one.

Day of Protest at UCBerkeley

It doesn't look like patents are going to be able to make a huge difference in UC's budget problems.

Latest on Berkeley's Operation Incompetence excellence.

The numbers of UC managers continue to grow even as faculty hiring is down.

Jerry Brown seems to be figuring out that contemporary republicans are not like the ones he dealt with during his first time as Governor.  Too bad it took him so long.

New Grad Enrollment is down this year across the country--especially in business, education, and public administration.

Senate Sub-Committee preserves Pell Grants but ends grace period on interest payments.

Is the economy creating a "lost generation" of young adults?

Increasingly money is driving admissions decisions--and not just acceptance decisions.

Looking for the Buffets--colleges looking for students "of means."

Texans don't actually seem to approve of Rick Perry.

The Occupation at Wall Street to protest finance capital continues.  The tensions seem to be heading up as the police are reportedly getting more aggressive.  Police have arrested at least 16 since Saturday.  There are reports that similar protests are beginning elsewhere.

UK Students set November 9 as date for protest against Government's "fundamentalism" on education funding.

Despite austerity for the people UK government borrowing hits new high in August.

Irvine 11 case has gone to the Jury.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Regents Budget Strategy: Stuck Between Stations

At the session of their Finance Committee on September 15, the UC Regents had their most intense and serious discussion of UC's budgetary crisis in recent memory.  The immediate cause was the Office of the President's first multi-year budget framework, and the reason it stirred so much debate is because it pulls a tuition trigger if state funding comes up short.  I'll describe some highlights of the debate, the deadlock that resulted, and several likely ways out of the deadock, which requires a minor but difficult paradigm shift on the Board.

UCOP calculates a $2.5 billion funding gap by 2015-16 (Display 4).  (This understates the actual gap, which is more like $2.5 billion right now (Figure 6), based on the 2001 Pathway and revenue needs of the Regents' own priorities (Figure 7), but I am so happy to see actual numbers presented to the public that I will skip the criticism.)  UCOP then reduces the gap to $1.5 billion with efficiencies (also too optimistic but what the heck!). The important bit is that they set a clear quantitative goal of recovering some major revenues -- $1.5 billion -- and show Sacramento the exact consequences of non-restoration of funds. This is genuine progress, and formed the basis of an important debate.

The headlines before the meeting captured the outcome of UCOP's worst-case scenario of zero increases (actually not the worst, given recent cuts), which would take UC tuition to over $22,000 for in-state students by 2015-16 (close but probably too low: see our projection in March).  UCOP's strategy is clearly not to try to raise tuition to that level, but to pressure the state into doing its duty to high-quality public education by reinvesting in the university.

This is where the debate began.

A faction led by Board Chair Sherry Lansing was horrified at even visualizing the prospect of doubling tuition over the next four years.  She intervened in the discussion at many points, saying variously, "This isn't the message we want to send," "this will scare people," and "this isn't a future that I am willing to accept."  Late in the discussion she compared the framework to those people who told her as a young girl that she should get married and raise a family rather than having a career.  Budget VP Patrick Lenz and President Mark Yudof tried but failed to head off this misreading of the framework's intent.  Lansing made it clear she did not want the framework to turn into a plan to be voted on at the Regent's meeting in November -- perhaps in part because she was not actually in the majority on the Board. 

I assume that Regent Lansing is not in fact missing the point of the framework, and, perhaps alarmed by the pre-meeting headlines and some unknown feedback, her position seems to be that creating a clear relationship between falling public funding and rising student tuition -- something UCPB called for ten years ago! --  is too scary or punitive to seduce people into increasing support.

The pro-framework group had two subfactions.  The first wanted to use it for its apparent official purpose, which is to goad, threaten, and cajole the legislature into providing proper levels of public funding. Regents who favored this in their comments included Regent Pattiz and the two public officials on the Board  (Lt. Governor Newsome and State Supeintendent of Public Instruction Torlakson).  As with Regent Lansing, they made various proposals for public advocacy campaigns, with varying ratios of emphsis on politicians, the public, and corporations.  UC has been weak here -- UCOP for example ignored a proposal by UCPB in 2004 that came complete with sample advertizements created by UCSF member Stan Glantz and an associate--so there is still room for improvement.

The second subfaction of the pro-framework group wanted to use it to show that correct public funding is a hopeless cause. This was led, as in the past, by the Regents of Doom:  Blum, Crane, and Gould, with a strong assist this time from Regent Bonnie Reiss.  This group was understandably skeptical that the legislature will be brought around by a better message campaign.  They also insisted that declining state funding is an obvious and unchangeable fact.

David Crane is the Board's Herman Melville, effortlessly channeling Capt Ahab on the quarterdeck, defining the state budget as a brick wall on which UC has already totaled itself, doing his version of Ahab saying "the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond."  He stated that the two most effective lobbyists for the University, the students and the unions, haven't had the courage to step up to the fight.  He asked rhetorically whether anyone thinks the federal government will cut entitlements and the military before it cuts funding for the states.  Crane can do public budgetary checkmate like no one else, and he's certainly right about the rising tide of pension costs, health care mandates, and the idiotic revenue lock-ins of the California prison system in direct competition with higher ed, which prisons perpetually defeats.  His own literary conclusion: if you are waiting for the state budget to come back, you are waiting for Godot.

Next to him, Regent Gould played the moderating Starbuck, saying that the framework is designed simply to show to the legislature the "reality of the consequences of their decision. . . . Let us be truthtellers. .this is what [cuts] mean to our efforts to cover our costs . . .  I think we need to be honest with Sacramento.  It's so irritating  to have them be shocked and dismayed when we raise tuition after they cut us 650 million dollars.  That's just not honest.  We have an obligation as a Board of Regents to tell the truth."  His remarks may well have picked up some Regents on the fence in favor of giving the framework another look in November, although the positions of the silent Regents remain a mystery.

Regent Blum (0:40) said "I have no faith in Sacramento to ever do the right thing."  We should continue to make our case, he added, but we've been doing it for ten years, "and it's been essentially a waste of our time."  He went on, "Tell me why you don't go to a Chevron, tell me why you don't go to an Apple, . . a Cisco,  .. . Google,  . . . these companies who are sitting on money they don't know what to do with -- a lot of it's overseas -- and say let's just look at what the University of California has meant to you . . .and ask for $5 million a year each year for the next 10 years."  The basic idea is to replace public funding with corporate funding, and the model Blum cited was again the University of Michigan  that he said raised $3 billion for student aid (the actual $545 million which is still very good, but this is capital, not an annual fund, and is less than what UC has lost in state funding so far this year, etc.)

But another demonstration that private funds cannot replace public funds as a matter of simple math isn't necessary to repeat at this juncture because many Regents made the same kind of point.  Regents Newsome, Gould and Pattiz said that the scale of corporate giving would never solve a $1.5 billion problem, even if we assumed, which we should not, corporaet interest in turning parts of public infrastructure into objects of corporate philanthropy from the same companies that have worked for decades to reduce their public tax obligations.  Regent Fred Ruiz offered possibly unintended backup when he noted that his company is increasing by five-fold its contributions . . . to the Chamber of Commerce's PAC, devoted to electing business-friendly representatives who will oppose "job-killing bills," thus signaling that his company would give to business PACs rather than to universities, including the one he represents.

Overall, the Regents cancelled each other out.  As a symptom of a kind of collective depression, they seemed to agree on only one thing, which was that nothing that they had tried or would try in the future with the legislature would actually work. Their impossible situation was locked in by a second symptom: they could offer no generally acceptable explanation of why their various efforts with the legislature had failed.

The Regental deadlock reminded me of a book that the financier George Soros wrote in the wake of the 1987 market crash, called The Alchemy of Finance.  Soros had always been interested in epistemology, and described in that book his theory of "reflexivity," which boils down to the idea that peoples' perception of their social and economic systems change how those systems behave.  This may seem obvious to social and cultural scholars, but Soros used the idea to reject a naive but prevelant neo-classical trust in the efficiency and self-regulating nature of markets.  Crucially, reflexivity rejects fatalism or autonomism in the analysis of complex systems -- exactly the kind of fatalism which many Regents have expressed this year.

Were the Regents to put themselves in the budgetary picture, the "mystery" of their failure to influence public funding would immediately disappear.  The legislature freezes or cuts public funding because the Regents always raise tuition (in 18 of the last 20 years).  This is a national trend, e.g. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's justification of massive state cuts to higher ed on the grounds that the universities raise tuition even with steady funding.  The UCOP proposal makes this logic explicit (see my discussion of the charts from March 2011).

Once the cycle gets started, it looks like an irresolvable chicken-or-egg problem, a problem of mutually-assured-destruction. But we do know  the interactive cause-and-effect cycle -- tuition increases excuse public funding cuts, which justify tuition increases. We also know that is that the current vicious cycle in California began with UCOP's Compact with Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2005, which locked in annually tuition increases of 7-8%, allegedly without consulting legislative leaders or most if not all of the Regents.  Whatever the historical details, were UC officials to see their place in the cycle, as one of two principal actors in the cycle, they could stop the action that perpetuates the cycle and see what difference that makes.

There is one Regent on the record who seems to understand how reflexivity is working on the UC budget. That is Eddie Island, the Board's unofficial moral conscience and perennial clean-up hitter.  He agreed with Regent Crane (1:27), noting
his future is bitter, and ugly, and unfortunately it's true. . .  But there's a reason for it.  When I joined this Board six years ago, I urged my colleagues to take off the table increasing student fees, and we refused to do that., and as long as increasing student fees are on the table, we're not going to--and in a meaningful way--address the problem. But we've come to a tipping point now. Where are we going to collect fees, exorbitant fees? I ask you to take a look at California demographics. . . only 27% of the students in high school in California are white students. The rest are minority students, poor students, first generation students, and they are clamoring to get into the middle class. . .[with fee hikes ]tthe one's who can afford it come from that 27%, but they're declining. . . . We're going to have a University of California that isn't for Californians. . . we haven't said as a board let's put together a $100 billion capital financing campaign to rescue the university-- because we haven't had to. We've had student fees to turn too.  But we have no place to collect these fees. . . we now have to do the right thing.  .  In our demonstration we've basically proved that rising fees is ok. . . we make the case for rising student fees. . . But our demographics aren't like Virginia's, or Michigan's . . we have a mandate to educate millions of underrepresented minority kids.  And we can't get there from here with high student fees. That model does not work with high student fees. We need a new model.
Regent Island put the Regents and their repeated fee hikes at the center of the action, and noted that these hikes have blocked alternatives. He goes on to offer a depressed narrative abouthow our politics have failed us, our politicians have failed us, there is no money in the bank, and that we have to turn to a new campaign with the corporate world -- in other words, his discourse didn't lead the Board out of the wilderness.  But it was clear from later statements, including one by President Yudof, that Island had make some people think about how the University had itself negatively affected the legislative system.  We may look back sometime and see the session as a turning point.

The discussion has important implications for public university strategy in this period of foolish austerity. I would state them like this:
  1. Higher ed leaders like the UC Regents must stop talking as though private can replace public funds.  These funds do different things, they are of different orders of magnitude, and discussing private fundraising in the context of public funding cuts confuses everyone and lets legislatures off the hook.
  2. University communities need to explain specifically how the public functions of public universities depends on public funds. I only had space to raise this issue in a recent piece, and existing research needs massive expansion.
  3. In November, the UC Regents should be able to look at a proposal, based on the same UCOP budget analysis, that offers a two-year freeze on tuition in exchange for a set percentage of general fund increases.
This proposal would be the "Fourth Scenario" that a Regent asked about last week: 0% tuition hikes in exchange for 16% funding increases, trying to climb back towards 2008, perhaps to be staggered to start a year later.  (Other measures, like enrollment freezes, could be part of the mix.)  There should also be a Fifth Scenario in the calculation -- fee decreases in exchange for a multi-year public ramp-up of sufficient size.  People need to see what that looks like.

In this proposal, if the tuition freeze is tried and fails with Sacramento, then tuition would be back on the table, but after the only viable alternative -- restored state funding -- had been given a serious chance in exchange for concrete protection for students.

This list may sound unlikely and risky, especially number 3.  But none of them are as risky as sailing with the despairing Captain Ahab, who sank his ship.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Links for September 20

John Judis offers a very thoughtful overview of the ways that the present economic crisis repeats that of the 1930s.  There are some differences though including the changed nature of the world economy.  And given the ongoing policy mistakes of international economic and political leaders those changes mean that things might end up worse than the 30s. 

Contrary to the ideologists of hi-tech, the outsourcing of hi-tech jobs is a huge driver of US trade deficit and a serious contributor to high unemployment.

The latest Anderson Report suggests that inland California will lag behind in whatever recovery the State manages.   Without building and population growth inland unemployment will continue to be high.  But Anderson doesn't believe that either the state or the nation will fall back into another recession.  Of course that presumes that we aren't in one already.

2/3 of Californians oppose the automatic trigger cuts that were written into the state budget.

SJSU students protest being displaced from campus housing by large entering class.

Legal proceedings for Berkeley March Protesters continue.

Closing arguments in the Irvine 11 case are moving towards completion.  Defense attorneys defend the students' free speech rights.  Of course the Prosecutor doesn't like that argument.

In addition to his call for some tax increases, it seems that Obama's deficit plan does include serious cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

The IMF is now worried that policy makers in Europe and the US have bought into Neo-Liberalism too much.  When the IMF thinks you are too neo-liberal you really think it might give policy makers pause.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Links for September 19

To distract yourself from the California meltdown, read UK Universities Minister David Willetts take to the Guardian defend the multi-year elimination of nearly all direct public funding, among his other measures.  See Willetts sophistically claim that government investment has not been cut because student loans are really the same as grants.

This weekend the New York Times magazine had several good pieces on education.  See in particular What if the Secret to Success Is Failure, which is about the role of education in building personalities that can sustain effort, insight, creativity, and success -- all depending on the kind of individualizing environment that budget cuts are wrecking at the public college level.

Salt Lake's Deseret News seems to be one of the few dailies that noticed the US slipping again in the OECD's international rankings of student attainment, this time from 12th to 16th.  Paul Glastris attributes national compacency to US News's annual parade of elite privates, which he says suggests the U.S. is still on top.

But there's a deeper dynamic at work, something more weirdly self-destructive within American policy today. For example, Paul Krugman writes what must be his 50th denunciation of irrational Hooverist austerity that torpodoes the economy -- or, in today's metaphor, that applies leeches to bleed an already enfeebled patient.  Closer to hope, I am nearly done listening to a recording of last Thursday's UC Regent's Committee on Finance discussion of UCOP's idea of presenting Sacramento with a simple tradeoff between increased state support and tuition hikes. There is no consensus among the Regents about what the legislature thinks of UC, and thus nothing close to a strategy.  I'll say more about this meeting later, but a mysterious vortex is pulling at everyone.

Many Regents returned to the old standby solution of increased private fundraising, this time with more emphasis on scholarships to preserve access.  At the same time, coverage of Moody's new report on higher education begins, "Public and private universities across the United States have been struggling with endowment losses, thin liquidity, declining gifts, reduced state help and resistance to tuition hikes since 2008."   Fundraising was flat in 2010, and the decline  in megagifts implies that the costs of fundraising are increasing faster than the returns themselves.  The Regental debate suggests skepticism towards philanthropy on the Board as well.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Links for September 16

Even the Regents don't seem to buy UCOP's Magic Tuition Machine   But they are happy to raise executive salaries.

Regent David Crane thinks UC should become more like a private university.

Berkeley Public Education Coalition responds to Tuition increases.

Regents discuss Graduate Funding.

And the LAO is skeptical that UC needs so much money. (h/t Dan Mitchell)

Is the renovation of Cal Stadium a huge financial mistake? (h/t Catherine Cole)

The Defense has rested its case in the Irvine 11 case.

Illinois Labor Board certifies a faculty union at UIC.  Of course the administration is vowing to appeal.

Cutting Administration may not be everything.  But it sure isn't nothing.

Looks like the budget of the NSF is going to get cut.

Dean Baker offers some thoughts on the David Brooks lack of thought.

Ron Susskind reports that Tim Geithner blocked order to restructure Citibank.

Yves Smith doesn't believe that story for a second.

If you want to improve K-12 education you need to work with teachers not attack them.

Applications for Unemployment are up, the economy is down, and the political class is pushing for more cuts to government spending.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Links for September 15

The LAT has more info on UCOP's Magic Never-Ending Tuition Machine.

CA Republicans have filed suit to block the redistricting plan because it didn't turn out the way they hoped.

The Trial of the Irvine 11 continues.

Nearly 1/4 of California's Children are living in Poverty.  It is a problem for the future as well as the present.

But apparently Texas (home of the "miracle") has the highest, and fastest growing, poverty levels in the country.

Central Banks are pumping Credit into European Banks.

UK unions have set November 30 as day of Strike to Oppose Pension cuts.

Community Colleges across the nation face increasing financial strains.  So do students.

California Student Default Rates:  They are highest at for-profits.

SAT scores are down.  Whatever that means.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Links for September 14

Bob Samuels is taking the fight to Washington.

SFGate provides more detail on UC's plan for consistently raising tuition.

The Economist takes the time to remind everyone of a fundamental reality: California's semi-privatization of higher ed is bad for both the state and its economy.

The California Budget Project has the latest analysis on the long-term increase in spending on Corrections in California.

The State's Revenues exceeded expectations in August, but September will be key to whether "triggers" kick in.

The Delta Project suggests that in the first year of ARRA colleges did a pretty good job protecting core functions.   But they also show that gaps between rich and poor institutions are growing and that community colleges are being hit hardest by the cuts.

Higher Education Price Index rose last year at twice as fast a pace as the year before.

The number of Americans living below the poverty line is at its highest in over 50 years.  Blacks and Latinos have been especially hard hit.

The Washington Post points out that low capital gains tax rates have increased inequality.  Color me shocked.

Texas Teachers are struggling with the effects of $4 Billion dollars in budget cuts.

Congress has decided to make it easier to start Charter Schools.

Dems upset in two crucial House elections.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Links for September 13

So the Regents start their September meeting today with their usual agenda. 

Of course you should take a look through it yourself but among the highlights are the presentation of  a budget plan that would most likely raise tuition between 60 and 80% over the next 4 years, discussion of the funding of UC Graduate Students, an update on the much vaunted attempt to introduce administrative efficiency through technologies, the "annual report on ethics and compliance," a discussion of whether UC is compensating Chancellors well enough, and a report on UC investments.

Does California Need to Reinvent its Higher Ed System?  John Aubrey Douglass thinks so. 

Calpers is planning on investing $800 million in California Infrastructure.

The State Republicans blocked Jerry's effort to prevent corporations from deciding how much they should be taxed.

In Washington, Republicans don't like Obama's latest jobs proposal because it might ask corporations to pay more for their private jets.

The President of Vassar has a suggestion on how to change college rankings.

Rick Scott wants to imitate Rick Perry in changing Florida's universities.

Fewer people are applying to M.B.A. programs.

According to the Census most people in the US are getting poorer.  Not surprisingly people in California have been very hard hit.

The UK had the third highest fees for Higher Ed in the OECD before the recent tuition increases.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Links for September 12. 2011

The latest on UC's online project:  UCOP is looking for students overseas.  Its participants are sure the offerings will be fabulous.

Larry Pitts announces his retirement as of February.

Regents to Discuss Plan to Raise Fees Dramatically over the next 4 years if state funding is not increased.

The University of Illinois is trying to set up new email rules to more closely regulate control what faculty and students may say online and where they can say it.  

Faculty at Western Nevada are fighting back against the firing of tenured faculty:  they won't serve on search committees for replacements.

In case you hadn't noticed, campuses are turning into one big commercial.

Bank of America is planning on cutting 30,000 jobs.

Surprisingly, Britain's Austerity plan will increase inequality and lower the standard of living for the poor.

As the economy declines, student default rates are going UP.

Apparently the Wise People are pressuring the Super Congress to Cut even more than they are required to.

Jamie Dimon thinks that he and his Friends should be deciding what to do about banks.  Apparently consumers are too self-interested.

Oh, and he also thinks that US banks should tell international regulators how to set up the world's financial rules.  I guess that is because they did such a great job of running the world before.

There is a new analysis out about the tension between Freedom of Information Laws and Academic Freedom following all the recent controversies about emails.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Epic Fail: Why The Meritocracy is Not Good For Economic Democracy

By Catherine Liu

While UC Chancellors have their annual chortle over rising SAT scores and UC elitism, UC professors and lecturers on the ground have found, like blog commenter TB, that a larger and larger proportion of UC freshmen arrive on campus requiring remedial education in basic academic skills. How is it possible that incoming freshmen are getting higher than ever scores on standardized tests, but are so much less academically equipped to deal with college level learning?

The mis-education of California is no accident: it has been highly profitable for the privately held, for profit segments of the education industry. Educational Testing Services, purveyors of the SAT’s and California’s STAR tests for K-12 students, swears up and down that one cannot teach to their tests. Tell that to entrepreneur Stanley Kaplan, who started a mom-and-pop-shop doing exactly that. Today, the conglomerate that bears his name is worth $2.8 billion and is a for-profit educational services provider owned by the Washington Post.

Disaster capitalism keeps creating a wealth of opportunities for entrepreneurial education reformers. David Sirota just wrote a powerful piece on public education: The Shock Doctrine Comes to Your Classroom . Sirota’s thesis is that the financial crisis has been a golden opportunity for rapacious for-profit companies in the education industry to divert public education funds into their own swollen pockets. Instead of paying teachers and building school infrastructure, administrators are spending more and more of their budgets on standardized tests and other instruments that produce big profit margins, but little pedagogy. The New York Times has recently taken note of what critics of education reform have been repeating over and over again: radical reforms and gadget fetishism do not produce measurable improvements in classroom learning. Sirota focuses on the darker side of the technophile narrative in public education: even as public education budgets are shrinking, the share that goes to high tech and for profit testing companies keeps growing.

Critics of standardized tests from David Owens, Nicholas Lemann and Ralph Nader to Diane Ravitch have shown that academic skills suffer in a high stakes testing atmosphere. And yet, the stakes keep getting higher. High stakes standardized testing encourages cheating, gaming the system, siphons public funds into the pockets of the testing industry and its test prep subsidiaries while undermining teacher autonomy and creativity. The more economically beleaguered the school district, the more administrators are focusing on test results and teacher performance. The recent cheating scandal in Atlanta public schools is just one sign of what high stakes testing encourages in teachers and administrators fearful of losing public funding for their schools.

The on-going crisis in education offers politicians a short cut to consensus. By most measures, American public education has been a 20th century success story, but ever since the 1983 Reagan commissioned report, “A Nation at Risk,” presidents love embracing crisis while empowering administrators to repair the broken US public school system. Its failures are ascribed to teachers, unions and seniority rather than inadequate housing, poor health care and economic deprivation.

Diane Ravitch was one of the original authors of “A Nation at Risk.” Its findings incensed countless tweedy Cold Warrior types, among them Allan Bloom, and contributed in no small part to launching exhausting skirmishes over political correctness and canonical subversion during the Culture Wars of the 1980s. In her latest book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education , Ravitch comes out squarely in defense of the dignity of teaching as skilled labor. After years on the battlegrounds of policy and education reform, she came to the realization that policy makers and politicians had no real intention of improving American schools. They much preferred to keep teachers off balance and real debates over academic content off the pedagogical agenda. Ravitch denounces politicians, philanthropists, principals and callow administrators who are willing to consult with everyone from Bill Gates to Simon Cowell about education reform, but don’t care to ask experienced teachers what is needed in order to produce improvements in classroom learning. For Ravitch, the demonization of schoolteachers has created a toxic atmosphere in schools across the nation.

Zealous reformers and private foundations keep producing solutions to the problem of educating children from impoverished families. Rather than feeding students a hot lunch, or paying their parents a living wage, or providing their schoolteachers with basic supplies like paper, pencils, crayons, paints or even adequate ventilation, reformers would like to “innovate” and be “entrepreneurial” on the backs of poor children. As I argue In my book, American Idyll: Academic Anti-Elitism as Cultural Critique, the pseudo-elitism produced by standardized testing is actually a fig leaf for increasingly irrational forms of economic polarization.

As the Obama administration has underwritten policies of austerity and reform in its educational agenda, Naomi Klein’s shock doctrine theory obtains once again.

But we have to go back to Ronald Reagan’s standoff with the air traffic controllers union in 1981 to understand the full import of demonizing unionized workers. After declaring the air traffic controllers’ strike illegal, Reagan fired nearly 11,000 stirkers, outlawed their union and banned the fired workers from ever returning to their jobs. Reagan’s breathtakingly hard line excited the business world. Alan Greenspan praised the President’s decision as a victory for “employers’ rights.”

In 2011, public school teachers are the entitled working “elite” seeking benefits and a living wage at the expense of an imaginary commonweal of freeholders. Earlier this year, when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tried to outlaw teachers’ unions, business interests thrilled to see another politician brave the ire of schoolteachers and union members in what was once one of the most progressive states of the nation.

Teaching is a craft, but administrators prefer to think of it as an industrial process that can be made more and more “efficient.” In Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century, Harry Braverman demonstrated that monopoly capital seeks to discipline labor by imposing increasingly stringent constraints on workers through relentless rationalization of the work process: Frederick Winslow Taylor’s drive for efficiency degraded industrial labor even as it deskilled the laborer. The highly successful implementation of Taylorism generated new sources of profit for factory owners, but the post-Fordist managerial will to power has not ceased its tireless efforts to define all human activity through narrower and narrower metrics of efficiency.

The problem is, successful teachers are rarely remembered. Their successes are not celebrated with monuments or in song; each one of us who was educated in the American public school system is living testimony to their legacy. It is impossible to quantify their successes according to the metrics put into place by No Child Left Behind and now Race to the Top style reformism. To the managerial ethos, craftsmanship has to be undermined: a skilled worker is a potential rebel and dissenter, a troublemaker. When Diane Ravitch realized that education reform movements aspired to no more and no less than the degradation of work conditions in public schools, she began a tireless campaign in defense of teachers and their unions.

We can still find John Dewey and Maria Montessori infused pedagogical practices alive and well in private schools where artisanal pedagogy flourishes in the standardized-testing-free ambience of intellectual and creative inquiry. Dewey and Montessori did not consider their educational innovations luxuries: their theories were developed in the classrooms that prized community and cooperation, not competition and exclusion. It is of course, the saddest of all ironies that the laboratory schools where their intellectual and experimental work took place are now almost exclusively private schools charging prohibitive tuition. Yes, these schools provide a few precious scholarship places for the needy and the worthy. Philanthropy does not build the democratic ethos prized by Dewey. An ill-conceived and fundamentally corrupt meritocracy will only fan the flames of popular resentment of education and academic inquiry.