When my mom's MPS elementary school was deemed as 'failing' back in the 90s, she began a journey into each and every magic fix in education, which would last the final decade of her employment as a teacher and generally leave the school in as bad or worse of a state as it had begun. Voucher schools are the next step in a system of trial and error that has been created by those who hope against reality, but it's worth a shot like any other potential fix.

 

First, the reality. Most fixes are temporary or work on the kids who would have performed better in the traditional setting, anyhow, like those with parents who bother to sign their kids up for the better school. This should be obvious, but those in favor of the next big thing tend to use the stats, anyhow. On top of that, improvements with most of the fixes, including school choice, seem to be immediate but not lasting. From the studies I've seen, scores go up for a few years, gaps are never closed, and scores fall back eventually. However, the truth is that voucher schools have not been fully implemented in order to fix the 'problems' in education, and since everything else has been tried, we might as well try voucher schools.

Teachers who argue against the ultimate trial and error (which will result in the demise of public schools) really should have thought about that before they bought into every new program, before they accepted the 'fact' that students today are dumber than students in the past, and before they accepted their own union acceptance of teacher accountability. It's too late to go back, and we're close enough to give it a shot, so it kind of makes sense to go ahead and see what happens when all parents get vouchers and get to choose where that money goes.

 

While voucher schools will not be as effective as the eventual (and only legitimate) solution to failing inner city schools -- boarding schools -- a voucher system is relatively cheap as an experiment. And who knows, maybe the psychological benefit of feeling like a real choice was made will be enough to overcome ignorance and poverty. I had a planning professor in college who said people treat their properties much better when they own rather than rent, so if you own your kids' education, maybe there's college-like effect to the whole situation.

Jacksonville News

New Jax Witty

Articles, reviews, advice, and legitimate research to go along with some back-handed comments. Think of us as Jacksonville's mother-in-law.
  • Only Way to Avoid The Reverse Mortgage Disaster
    I've seen several news articles about the pitfalls of reverse mortgages. I also saw that we've set up a fund to help people when they get stuck with a reverse mortgage here in Florida. But the simple answer that most older people don't want to hear is that there's only one way to avoid disaster with a reverse mortgage: don't get one.


    The ad that inspired this reverse mortgage article claims that Americans have trillions of dollars just sitting there, not being used. The problem is that a reverse mortgage isn't using that money, either. It's using the house that's worth that money as collateral for a LOAN. It's a loan that needs to be paid off when your house is sold. You can make mistakes and end up losing your house.



    The better advice for anyone already retiredor looking to retire is to sell. I know, you love your house, all the stuff in it, the neighbors you wave at, the same big box retail down the road, and all the stuff in the house. It's basic economics: if you own something outright worth $500,000, sell it for $500,000 and rent a nice condo for 20 years. If you take out a reverse mortgage, then you can get $250,000 towards a condo for 10 years, still pay property taxes and insurance on the house, and continue to maintain it so that in a decade, you'll make enough money to pay off your reverse mortgage loan. New AC, new roof, new driveway? That would all eat into the profit on selling your house that you'll need to cover all the interest on the loan. Don't pay a bank for the right to live in a house for your entire life. Avoid reverse mortgages at all costs.
  • Rental Bikes Aren't Exactly For The Homeless
    Local news was down in St. Augustine covering the newly-proposed use of some kind of bike-share rental system. Since it's standard operating procedure, a homeless man was interviewed about the program. He said something to the effect that it would be good to have options for someone like him who can't afford a bike. FYI local news and homeless people: bike rental programs are not really created for the homeless.




    Since I don't claim to know the biking habits of the typical homeless individual, I'm going to assume it involves getting to a place and then back home. Home being a structure in a field outside of town, not where you'd be able to return the bike for credit. My understanding would be that these folks would need the bike to get to and from "work," each and every day. Based on a similar rental system I found online, the 24-hour rental is $24. Alternatively, an annual pass is $80. The problem is that the trips can only be 60 minutes each. Assuming the homeless camp is close enough to downtown, this might work as a way to get around once in St. Augustine. Not a bad yearly price to not have to worry about bike maintenance, anyhow. If you're homeless already, and now you can get as many maintenance-free trips on a bike as you can use each day, then $80 for the year isn't bad at all.

    But wait, there's less. The yearly pass will need to be paid for with a credit card with a fob mailed to an address. So even if these ride share bikes makes sense to homeless people, it might not be something that can be purchased without the help of someone with credit and an address. It might seem like a lot of people would volunteer to do this, but any extra time or any damage would be billed to the credit card, so I certainly wouldn't volunteer my credit in the hopes that someone else will always return the bike in time (or at all). The Cincinnati bike share, for example, charges $1,200 for a bike that is not returned.

    I have a $1,000 bike. At least someone paid $1,000 for it back in 1986. I picked it up amidst college moving day garbage at UW-Milwaukee back in 1999. It was already worth $0 at that point. I've used some tape to hold it together, but it's still worth about $0. Since I'm probably not the only person in the area with a worthless bike, I'm thinking a bike donation for the homeless might make more sense than saying they should be using tourist bikes. That's not to say that bike shares don't have a place in St. Augustine, just that it might be meant for rich tourists instead of homeless interviewees.