A Rise By Any Other Name

I began my summer “job” last week being chauffeur and companion for two 12 year olds so struggle for quality blog time.  That’s my excuse for opting to do a fairly superficial post with a summer theme.  One of our pleasures the past twenty years has been semiannual visits to San Diego, always including outings to the Pacific/Mission Beach area.  Our most fun visits include any of my “beach sightings trifecta” of grunion, the green flash and Slomo.  More about grunion and the green flash in later posts, we’ll focus on Slomo in this one.

Slomo is Dr. John Kitchin, a retired neurologist, who for many years has enjoyed inline skating up and down the Pacific/Mission Beach “boardwalk” in a graceful slow motion style, often accompanied by music.  He “dropped out” of the rat race for a very early retirement, pursuing his passion and bringing pleasure to many.  We have enjoyed a few sightings over the years and always keep an eye out while we are at the beach.  He is also a Geezer.  Here is a video link.


Intending no disrespect to Dr. Kitchin, or to “Dr.” Schlomach, I’m designating Byron Schlomach, Director of the 1889 Institute, as “Schlomo” because, even though he purports to have a PhD in Economics from Texas A & M, he has dropped out of using his training, to pursue something—maybe his passion, but not real economic analysis, more likely a steady income—while bringing pleasure and enlightenment only to himself and his donors.  I’ve critiqued Byron Schomach’s sloppy work before in Double, Double, Toil and Trouble, Later, Sooner and Miserables Love Company, some of which he has acknowledged to me, but he doesn’t correct his published “research” so until he shows himself worthy of the PhD he touts, in this and future posts he is Schlomo.

Schlomo’s latest is a May 2017 Policy Analysis titled “Public Education Spending In a Historical Context”.  I’ll try to find the time this summer to do more analysis of his “analysis” but for now just want to make a general comment and a pedantic correction to it.  The general comment is the bottom line of Schlomo’s “analysis” is that plenty of money has gone into K-12 education over the years (love it when he starts with 1920, a year that has so much relevance for us today) but that it isn’t getting to the classrooms or the teachers, rather it’s gone to employ “non-instructional staffing” who, we must conclude, do nothing to benefit students.  His “analysis” is simply an echo-chamber for the work, actual research, done by Benjamin Scafidi shown on the website of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs which I’ve commented on in A Dirge for a Surge, Purging the Surge and The Glib, The Bad and The Ugly.

Scafidi’s work raises a useful question, one that real follow up research using Oklahoma data might provide some insights helpful to Oklahoma policy makers, namely what do all these “non-instructional” workers do?  Every school employee in Oklahoma has a job code associated with their cost/pay (I actually had three), so it is very knowable with real research.  In one of my posts critiquing Scafidi I point out that the largest “non-instructional” work groups at my school district are teacher assistants, child nutrition workers and bus drivers.  From my 60+ years observing public schools in Oklahoma the growth in these jobs has been driven by the IDEA (special education services), expansion of early childhood education, increased student participation in school lunch and breakfast (didn’t exist in my day) programs, and concerns about student safety (walking/biking to schools).

Until Schlomo does the analysis of these impacts on employment, for which data is available, then his generalized whining about the cost of schooling is not worth considering.  It drives me crazy that he, and his kindred spirits at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, actually get paid for just repeating the same generalities when they are supposedly doing “research”.   It is also fun to note that Schlomo uses his own data when he transitions to Oklahoma, not data from the National Center for Education Statistics which I think is available for each state.  And notice that his Oklahoma data cuts off at FY 2009, not FY 2013 as for the national data–we sure don’t want to remind his readers of what has happened in Oklahoma the last eight years.  Schlomo is as shameless as he is careless.

Now here’s the pedantic part.  In painting the picture of unrelenting new money pouring into our public schools nationally, yet nothing to show for it, he describes it this way,

“Given the continued geometric rise in spending per student from 1990 to 2009, it is apparent that little of the additional money was used to hire more teachers.”

I don’t have a PhD in economics like Scholmo, but I took enough college and graduate level economics courses to know you can’t survive economics study if you don’t understand basic mathematics and statistics.  These disciplines inform us, actually in high school, that there are two basic kinds of formulaic growth or increase or “rise” definitions:  arithmetic and geometric.  Simply stated arithmetic growth projects a subsequent year (Y2) by adding a constant amount (A) to the current or earlier year (Y1), so an example of an equation generating arithmetic growth is:  Y2 = Y1 + A.  A simple arithmetic growth series is 6000, 8000, 10000, 12000, 14000; see here his Figure 1 and the $2,000 per decade increase he describes, beginning FY 1970.

By contrast geometric growth projects a subsequent year (Y2) by multiplying a constant amount (A) (which is greater than one) times the current year (Y1), so an example of an equation generating geometric growth is Y2 = A times Y1.  Here’s what geometric growth, starting with 6000 and the first decade increase of 2000 would look like; it’s a factor (A) of 1.333:  6000, 8000, 10667, 14222, 18963.  My Chart is a graph showing close to his Figure 1 numbers (series 2 in red), growing ARITHMETICALLY, contrasted with the numbers if growth truly had been “geometric” as Schlomo claims (series 1 in blue).

The blue line is what geometric growth looks like.  I guess arithmetic just isn’t as scary as geometric.  Is Schlomo’s intent to inform or to deceive or does he just not know any better.

As always lunch on me to the first to ID the photo location.


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