Maverick Leads Charge for Charter Schools - New York Times
Steve Barr, a major organizer of charter schools, has been waging what often seems like a guerrilla war for control of this city's chronically failing high schools.
In just seven years, Mr. Barr's Green Dot Public Schools organization has founded 10 charter high schools and has won approval to open 10 more. Now, in his most aggressive challenge to the public school system, he is fighting to seize control of Locke Senior High, a gang-ridden school in Watts known as one of the city's worst. A 15-year-old girl was killed by gunfire there in 2005.
In the process, Mr. Barr has fomented a teachers revolt against the Los Angeles Unified School District. He has driven a wedge through the city's teachers union by welcoming organized labor "” in contrast to other charter operators "” and signing a contract with an upstart union. And he has mobilized thousands of black and Hispanic parents to demand better schools.
Three years ago, Mr. Barr negotiated with district officials about overhauling Jefferson High School, a dropout factory in downtown Los Angeles. When the talks bogged down, Mr. Barr concluded he needed clout.
Green Dot organized a parents union, and its members, buttonholing neighbors in supermarkets and churches, collected 10,000 signatures endorsing Jefferson's division into several smaller charter schools.
Mr. Barr marched from Jefferson High with nearly 1,000 parents to deliver the petition to district headquarters. The authorities refused to relinquish Jefferson, but the school board approved five new charters, which Green Dot inaugurated last fall, all near Jefferson and drawing students from it.
Kudos to Steve Barr for waging this war. I wish him nothing but success as he fights the entrenched education bureaucracy. I just wish it wasn't necessary to fight these battles in order for parents to have control of their children's education.
Fight Song at Ozarks: Work Hard and Avoid Debt - New York Times
The Times has a nice write-up of College of the Ozarks.
Like many undergraduates, students at the College of the Ozarks here work their way through school, though they often do such unconventional campus jobs as milking cows at dawn in the college's barns and baking fruit breads for sale to donors.
But what is truly different about Hard Work U. "” as the college styles itself "” is that all 1,345 students must work 15 hours per week to pay off the entire cost of tuition "” $15,900 per year. If they work summers, as one-third are doing this summer, they pay off their $4,400 room and board as well. Work study is not an option as it is at most campuses; it is the college's raison d'Ãªtre.
This is a college that is philosophically opposed to students starting careers with an Ozark mountain of debt "” 95 percent graduate debt free "” and it believes that students who put sweat equity into their education value it more.
Unfortunately, they can't quite lose the New York snobbery.
Colleges like Columbia pay high salaries to attract top scholars and offer students a smorgasbord of electives as well as amenities like Olympic-scale gyms. College of the Ozarks is run on a lean staff -- it has only four deans -- and pays full professors under $70,000 a year for teaching more hours per semester, 12. English majors can avail themselves of a bare-bones survey course like 20th-century British literature but not of a course just in James Joyce.
Horrors -- students are deprived of the opportunity to study James Joyce for an entire semester. Maybe I'm just a philistine, but I don't imagine many people outside of New York City would find that troublesome.
Certain Degrees Now Cost More at Public Universities - New York Times
Starting this fall, juniors and seniors pursuing an undergraduate major in the business school at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, will pay $500 more each semester than classmates. The University of Nebraska last year began charging engineering students a $40 premium for each hour of class credit.
And Arizona State University this fall will phase in for upperclassmen in the journalism school a $250 per semester charge above the basic $2,411 tuition for in-state students.
Such moves are being driven by the high salaries commanded by professors in certain fields, the expense of specialized equipment and the difficulties of getting state legislatures to approve general tuition increases, university officials say.
This makes sense to me. Some degrees offer a higher return on investment than others -- in the form of higher starting salaries, more opportunities, or more networking. Why shouldn't students pay more to access more valuable opportunities? Surprisingly, not everyone agrees with me.
"There was a time, not that long ago, 10 to 15 years ago, that the vast majority of the cost of education at public universities was borne by the state, and that was why tuition was so low," he said. "That was based on the premise that the education of an individual is a public good, that individuals go out and become schoolteachers and businessmen and doctors and lawyers, that makes society better. That's no longer the perception."
I have just one response: College of the Ozarks. Treating the "education of an individual" as a public good is a decent idea. But why not run public universities more like College of the Ozarks? Why try to make them taxpayer subsidized versions of the elite private universities? Providing education as a public good does not automatically require a state to provide full weight rooms, olympic size swimming pools, palatial dorms, and all of the other amenities to which students are starting to become addicted.