Ski holiday markets in everything

by on March 18, 2014 at 1:06 am in Economics, Education, Sports | Permalink

The ski holiday company that is offering to pay parents’ fines for taking children out of school to go skiing has received tremendous support from parents since the promotion went viral.

Lee Quince, the owner of Bedford-based MountainBase, which sells holidays to Morzine in the French Alps, said: “90 per cent of the people who have got in touch have been supportive of what we’re doing.”

It was a fortnight ago an advert called ‘Are Schools in the UK taking the PISTE?’ ran, claiming that the company would pay any local authority fines parents received for taking their children out of school if they booked a holiday in March or April. But it wasn’t until last week the advert was picked up by the national press, reigniting a long running debate about the cost of holidays out of term time.

Mr Quince has admitted his company’s deal encourages parents to break the law, but said he has received a lot of support for the advert.

The company claims it has no choice but to put its prices up by almost 50 per cent during the peak season, which it claims is unfair on customers.

There is more here.

Matt March 18, 2014 at 1:25 am
Timothy March 18, 2014 at 7:09 am

Heh, this has been my thinking. I ride a bike in NYC and like most disregard many traffic signals. If I am scraped up for that, $200 or $300 fine which considering I have yet to pay one at all seems to be pretty cheap on a per-year basis. I sometimes smoke the marijuana like a cigarette – $100 or $200 fee for that one which I’m unlikely to ever pay as a white guy in NYC.

I think fines should be progressive to a greater extent than taxes, perhaps. It results in very different law when I can afford to ignore the possibility of occasionally paying $200 for something but that might really scrape up a poor person.

brickbats and adiabats March 18, 2014 at 11:07 am

To continue my habit to every cyclist like you, obey the law and stop giving the rest of us a bad name, asshole. Maybe if people like you weren’t such douchenozzles the cops would stop reflexively assuming every cyclist’s death is the fault of the guy NOT driving a ton and a half of metal powered by dead dinosaurs.

Timothy March 18, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Heh, are there any rules here about insulting people, shithead? The on-the-ground rule in NYC seems to be that bicyclists pass through red signals like pedestrians, dumbass.

Phill March 18, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Do you cross reds on your bike in front of cops?

I was once like you, and now I stop and yell at fellow cyclists for being dicks. If we want to be taken seriously as vehicle-ishes, then we ought to take the same safety precautions.

Marie March 18, 2014 at 4:48 pm

@Timothy,

If there are rules about insults, I guess the fines are not high enough to enforce them.

Timothy March 18, 2014 at 10:15 pm

Usually the cop rolls through the red first then I follow.

Seriously, you sit at a red light in Manhattan and the entire crosswalk six feet from you will fill up with jaywalking pedestrians if no cars are coming. You’d feel like a moron waiting and I have almost never seen anyone actually do so.

Ricardo March 19, 2014 at 2:03 am

Pedestrians move more slowly and with less momentum than a bicycle. Do you stop at the red light and look for on-coming traffic before proceeding? If not, you are putting other people’s lives and safety in danger as the Chris Bucchere case makes clear.

londenio March 18, 2014 at 1:54 am

Higher prices for the holiday, and the company pays the fine. Seems like bundling the holiday with the psychological relief of not dealing with fines.

Rahul March 18, 2014 at 10:09 am

I wonder if it makes economic sense to look at this as a price discrimination / market segmentation strategy? Effectively, isn’t this a discount for skiers with kids?

Rahul March 18, 2014 at 3:07 am

Why not claim a close relation died or something? The dog ate my great grandma?

andrew' March 18, 2014 at 3:58 am

Or how bout ” you pedantic are soles, we want to go skiing.”

Greg G March 18, 2014 at 7:35 am

I always considered teaching my daughter to ski to be a crucial part of her education and did not hesitate to pull her from school occasionally for it.

Today she owns her own engineering business in Vail. It worked out OK.

Marie March 18, 2014 at 8:40 am

++++1

Alex March 18, 2014 at 7:50 am

Why not link it to grades? If the government is truly worried about standards then you could grant 1-3 weeks extra holiday based on performance without much impact to academic standards while also creating an extra incentive for parents and students to work harder. Everybody wins.

At the same time having the entire country off at the same time introduces unnecessary peak demand and could be changed without great difficulty – many European countries are staggering by state or region.

Marie March 18, 2014 at 8:37 am

To a degree, truancy is already linked to grades. If the content a school delivers during the average day is really that essential, the average kid’s grades will suffer if he is not there, and the parents will be (in theory) unhappy about this. It should be a self-limiting behavior.

But we all know that in many cases you could pull your kid out of school for weeks on end and he could still do just as well on tests, with a little effort. Of course, grades based on attendance, turning in homework, or “participation” would suffer, which is part of why schools rely on those things for grading instead of giving a kid a mark based on what he tests as having learned.

Truancy law is not about the welfare of the kid (except in some cases of abuse or neglect) but about the smooth running of a school. You can’t have kids coming and going at will if you want to teach a classroom at a time. It’s just another part of the problem of individualization, the efficiency of a school is in teaching en masse, not teaching to each situation.

The school I taught in the teachers would laugh at the kids getting pulled out for Good Friday, because they wound up on a beach in Mexico, not in church. I think they did both, and I’m absolutely certain that the time they spent in either place was better spent than it would have been in my classroom, or in theirs.

Phill March 18, 2014 at 4:47 pm

I skipped most of my last year of highschool. I highly recommend the experience to other kids who found highschool to be boringly easy.

dearieme March 18, 2014 at 9:21 am

Good grief, are you telling me that the whole of the USA takes its school holidays at the same times? Strewth!

Alex March 18, 2014 at 11:10 am

It’s not about skiing but any valid holiday that’s hard to arrange. In many cases the fine is far below the savings that can be had from off-peak flight and hotel prices. It’s not as if it’s not already happening, only now more people are getting caught doing it.
This would also make life for companies easier – it’s often hard to manage staffing levels during these periods, leading many parents to settle for less than ideal holiday plans and timings. The government is already considering lengthening the school year: teachers already have more holiday than any other profession so this could be done jointly leading to no decrease in school days.
Also linking this with online education and some of the Average Is Over themes: the conscientious and motivated will thrive in the future and this would teach them early on to take charge of their own progress. Let them catch up on the curriculum on their own time and reward success with extra holiday.

Marie March 18, 2014 at 4:15 pm

The timing of the school year is, as I understand it, strongly correlated with national testing standards. When you are being judged as a school by your test results and in comparison with other schools throughout the U.S., you want to get as much instructional time in as possible before the tests. You essentially set your year to end soon after the testing. This is different than in the past where local school years could fit around weather, agriculture, etc.

agorabum March 18, 2014 at 10:45 pm

No, they do not take spring holiday at the same time. Some district will be on “Spring Break” from the start of March into April.
The post specifically notes the story is about the UK, not the states.

Axa March 18, 2014 at 8:55 am

The fines for parents shows that the teachers union thinks you will learn more at school than spending a week with you parents in another country.

Nick March 18, 2014 at 9:33 am

Why is it always skiing? Why not fishing, building rockets, or watching films for a week? What is it about the activity of skiing that gives parents who do it such an insufferable sense of entitlement?

Anyway the point is not about unions or judgements about the relative educational value of a week skiing versus being in school. It’s simply that by unilaterally removing your kid from school you are imposing a cost on the other children because, at the very least, teacher attention will be required to resynchronise them with the rest of the class. It’s inaccurate to say that the fine compensates for that but it is supposed to act as a deterrent in lieu of any other available strictures. This seems quite straightforward and administratively-lean to me.

Rahul March 18, 2014 at 9:39 am

What’s the typical non attendance rate in school due to other legitimate excuses i.e. sickness etc.? Would the skiing absences add much to resynchronization effort?

Nick March 18, 2014 at 9:49 am

Well it would at the least ADD to those costs, which in an ideal world wouldn’t exist. Given that they are avoidable (unlike sickness) then there must be an efficient level of fine (it might be low) to deter them. Of course in these matters we need to be on our guard against… are you ready for this?… slippery slope arguments.

Rahul March 18, 2014 at 9:57 am

Not really. It becomes a cost-benefit analysis. Does the potentially small additional cost of a few more absentees over the baseline absence rate outweigh the claimed benefits of a ski vacation. Unless you are saying ski time is absolutely useless in whatever metric of utility you ascribe to.

Nick March 18, 2014 at 11:58 am

But those costs fall on the rest of the class, while the benefits of the skiing holiday accrue only to the child being removed. It’s just like any other externality and I see the fines (perhaps ‘payments’ is better) as a fairly standard policy response.

The situation is more complex in fact because the education is state-supplied, there are laws about keeping your children in class, the ‘consumers’ (children) do not pay anyway even for private education and so on. But the narrow question of the private benefit versus the public cost of removing your child from school seems to me a thoroughly standard economic problem.

DougT March 18, 2014 at 9:48 am

This must be an example from England. Because of its expense, skiing is the activity of choice for the upper-class. So parents pulling their kids out of school for a ski-week in Gstaad or Zermatt obviously have the means to pay a fine. And I don’t think skiing is an interscholastic sport over there. Quick: name one world-class alpine or nordic ski-racer from England from the last 50 years. No fair using Google!

But a fine for parents taking time off for skiing wouldn’t fly here. I live in New Hampshire. Everyone skis. Local schools have special programs to accommodate racers, who need to use limited daylight hours for training. And taking the kids out for a day at the local hill is no problem.

Marie March 18, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Sometimes it is fishing, etc. The ski thing shows up more because of the class element, but the working poor who pull kids to go hunting, etc. get the stink eye, too, in the U.S.

It is absolutely true, what you say — this isn’t about the individual kids, it’s about the fact that schools are institutions and institutions do not work well with too many unknown variables. If parents got the idea that it was o.k. for them to take a kid out of school any time they thought there was a more educational opportunity available there would be a huge number of kids out of school every day — a huger amount, because as Rahul points out there are large numbers of students out on normal days.

Same goes for sick days, parents are discouraged from keeping kids out when they are ill, because even if the kid would learn better after becoming well and other kids will become infected, empty seats mean disrupted teaching. Couple years ago when the “swine flu” hit we had it come through our school, patient one tested positive for it. No one was told. I asked the principal why no one was told swine flu was in the school (elementary, so everyone was going to get it). She said the kind of parents we had, there would be an “exodus” if she told them (she seemed to miss the irony) and that there would be a disruption of the educational whatever if a ton of kids were out. Of course, everyone got sick so a couple weeks later she had a nearly empty school anyway. And then a month later the vaccine became available, and the school pushed everyone to vaccinate, which most did, because no one had been informed that what their kids had picked up was very likely the swine flu.

The collectivist nature of schools means that truancy policies are necessary. You’d think that would give parents pause about the nature of schools, but instead it usually just means the ones with the will and the means will dodge the truancy policies. The rich do have the luxury of recognizing that they are entitled to make up their own minds about how their kids should be educated. The poor sometimes do, also. It’s the middle class that had been talked into believing they have no authority over the lives of their own children, and that putting the good of their own kids over the institutional needs of mass public schooling is insufferable.

John B. in NE March 18, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I took my kids out of school for a week to see the 2006 total eclipse in Turkey (touring ruins and Hagia Sophia, etc. on the non-eclipse days). I’m pretty sure they learned more from that than from the lost school days.

One teacher asked “Couldn’t you reschedule?” but otherwise I got no push-back. My kids were late-teens, this was a private high school. They did have to write up the experience as homework.

I suspect the push-back from the public schools is because (I believe) their funding is based on the number of pupil-days they have and thus the school stands to lose funding when students are absent.

Marie March 18, 2014 at 4:19 pm

“One teacher asked, ‘Couldn’t you reschedule?'”

Was that the science teacher?

In our state (and I think all or most), there is a certain day where the students are counted (it’s the October count here). On that day, the number of students you have is the number of students you get paid for. If every one drops out the next day, you’re still covered. It creates some interesting effects — for example, schools slobber over home school students who want to take a couple classes the first semester, because they get half pay for them. But if you request a home school student be able to take a class the second semester (which they are legally required to let you do) you’ll get radio silence.

Rahul March 18, 2014 at 11:48 pm

Sounds like a pretty stupid system. These days I suspect they track daily attendance anyways so why fixate on an arbitrary October day to determine payment?

These kind of systems made sense in ancient, remote schoolhouses but sound anachronistic today.

Marie March 19, 2014 at 8:41 am

I’m not familiar with the history, I think it has to do with how mobile the population is and the modern phenom of most funding coming from the state or federal based on per pupil (once the school was funded by local property taxes about exclusively, fixed amount, not per pupil). Our state also allows you to move your kid to a school outside your neighborhood if you choose, so that may be part of the reasoning.

But the school is going to want a fixed date at which it can know how much money it gets, prorating by day to day attendance is probably something they can move to eventually but I’d guess this is the compromise made in some room some where some time, probably based on dates kids move when their parents are agricultural migrants.

Rahul March 19, 2014 at 11:47 am

Is the population really so mobile? What percent of students enter / leave over the course of a typical school year?

Marie March 19, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Gosh, it’s hard for me to say. But remember it’s statewide, so you have areas that have a lot of agricultural workers that come and go. Also, there’s charter schools — the one we attended had about 50 kids at one point, and maybe 15 of them left in the second half of the year because of disagreements, went back to the regular school. That would be a big financial hit, at $10,000 a year per student, if you lost half that when a kid left. Even in a bigger school with less loss, it can’t be easy to have that kind of uncertainty in your budget.

But I’m speculating.

Floccina March 20, 2014 at 11:30 am

So are the rich less motivated in education?

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