Friday, November 16, 2007

Johnny One Note

Johnny "One Note" Brandl, that is. Just about the time you start to feel sorry for Katherine Kersten—well, Spot exaggerates, of course—because of the vast liberal orthodoxy on college campuses, Johnny One Note puts in an appearance to flog his favorite dead horse: public support for parochial education. Here's a guy like, say, King Banaian, another suckling at a public university who doesn't really like public education. Do you suppose they are consumed with self-hatred, boys and girls?

Brandl makes reference to the recent Growth and Justice program on early childhood education:

Here's heartening news: Researchers looking at ways to address the achievement gap between black and white students have found programs that, dollar for dollar, yield far more benefit than they cost.

On Monday the local think tank Growth & Justice brought together some of the country's leading experts on the topic. These scholars have been measuring the dollar costs and dollar benefits of programs in the public schools.

What did they have to say, Spotty?

Well, grasshopper, it appears that early childhood intervention, especially when you couple it with support for poor parents, produces big dividends:

[University of Minnesota professor Arthur] Reynolds and his colleagues studied a program, Child-Parent Centers, which was much more ambitious than Head Start, enrolling children from the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago for as long as six years. Services were provided to their families as well. The researchers located the enrollees 20 years later and noted the differences in their lives as against people from similar family backgrounds who had not been enrolled. They discovered that the people who had been enrolled had completed more schooling, had been in less trouble with the law, had attained higher levels of employment and rated better on a measure of mental health.

Those findings were bolstered by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve's Arthur Rolnick and Rob Grunewald. Their research found that some early childhood programs have had little effect. But they also found that some larger, more expensive programs, incorporating parental involvement and carrying the children for many years, are not only effective but yield dollar benefits that exceed costs.

Henry Levin of Columbia University and Clive Belfield of City University of New York also described programs whose dollar benefits they calculated as exceeding dollar costs.

The most-promising programs reported on by these and other scholars potentially yield spectacular returns, much greater than most private-sector investments. Early childhood programs extending into elementary school can return up to $10 in benefits per dollar of cost. Reducing class size for low-income children results: benefits four times the costs. Creating small schools with a rigorous curriculum and mentoring, with teachers who commit long-term: benefits seven times the costs.

Wow, that's great, Spotty! John Brandl must be in favor of rolling programs out like this all over the place!

Not exactly, grasshopper. Johnny One Note says these programs will only work if they are run in parochial schools. With public money, of course:

We have long known that educational achievement is influenced mostly by characteristics of a student's family and only secondarily by school characteristics. This suggests that the hunt for ways of closing the gap can be understood as a hunt for supportive cultures in which to immerse students who do not receive adequate support at home. Except for Rolnick and Grunewald, the researchers at the conference seemed to be operating under the implicit assumption that those supportive cultures are to be found only in public schools.

This is puzzling, since the deepest source of inspiration for most people is not government but family or religion. We should consider the possibility that some such supportive cultures exist in institutions other than the public schools. For example, most (but not all) research finds that low-income blacks who attend Catholic schools graduate from high school in significantly larger numbers than do those from public schools. The Catholic schools accomplish their results at considerably lower cost. Perhaps for some children religion creates the supportive community they need.

Actually, Johnny, Spot's deepest source of inspiration is his need to point out what a shameless confidence man you are on the issue of school finance. Brandl has provided many examples over the years, but we need not stray from this op-ed piece to prove the point.

That's pretty strong, Spot.

Yes grasshopper, it is. But the program described by Professor Reynolds and extolled by Brandl as a reason to fund parochial schools, Child Parent Centers, is public, not sectarian.

You're right, Spot. That is quite a flim-flam. It's kind of dishonest to use a program run by the Chicago Public Schools as the reason to fund a school run by a bunch of nuns, isn't it?

Yes, grasshopper, but it's typical of the kind of magical thinking—very unprofessorlike—that parochial school advocates and the vouchers crowd like to spout.

From an earlier post by Spot:

To the private and religious school apologists like Captain Fishsticks, Katie, John Brandl, and many Republicans, including the governor and Spot's state Senator, Geoff Michel, a recent Department of Education study says public schools do better. Christian private schools do the worst.

And here's still more from another Spotty post about an earlier homily in the Strib by Johnny One Note:

Brandl writes:

Dewey's vision continues to invigorate many. Many, but hardly all. For some, religion, not government, remains the ultimate source of strength. Here's the rub: Maybe there are millions of people -- poor people who can't afford tuition -- whose family and neighborhood circumstances are such that without the inspiration, structure, protection and love to be found in religious schools, they simply will not thrive. . . .

This is an ignorant and vicious libel of public schools. Every public school that Spot or his pups have ever attended has made an effort to instill values of good citizenship and civic engagement. It is utter demagoguery to suggest that some people are so weak they need some of that ‘ole time religion to “thrive.” At least when it comes to making the argument on Spot’s dime.

Spotty does not want one red cent of public money to go a theistic educational system dominated by homophobes, anti-feminists, and other assorted antediluvian thinkers.

A quality, universal and free public school education is the backbone of the United States, and of Minnesota. Minnesota’s founders recognized that. In some parts of the country, and some parts of this state, the schools have been sorely neglected and underfunded while saddled with mandate after mandate and an increasingly diverse student population.

It is sophomoric of John Brandl to suggest that a solution is simply to give some students a religious school alternative and call the problem solved. And of course he isn’t trying to solve the problems of pubic schools, just lop off some public revenue for religious schools. If the public school problems are exacerbated by that, well, too bad.

It's not his problem!

Well, Spotty, at least Professor Brandl didn't claim all the research supported his position. In a little parenthetical statement, but still.

But it is intellectually dishonest—to be charitable—to claim that a public school early childhood intervention program offers evidence in support of parochial school education.

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