Assorted links

1. Japan markets in everything.  And the culture that is Japan, involves plastic wrap.

2. When it comes to immigration, the refugee gap seems to be closing.

3. Bulletproof three-piece suits.

4. Some observations on Germany’s current account surplus.  I would stress the point that “countries which don’t use their borrowing or investment well” are better pinpointed as the problem.  And is austerity endogenous?

5. Colorado voted decisively against investing more tax dollars in primary education.

6. Is William Vollmann underrated?


Found this (Current Spending Per Pupil By State) There seems to be a big cluster right around $9K per year and Colorado is in that. Which would seem to say that the story isn't huge ... midline spending state remains midline spending state.

I should have added that Colorado's expenditures are hardly "midline". According to the unadjusted 2011 data, Colorado ranked 42nd in overall per-pupil spending ($8,724; the median state was Montana at $10,639 and the national average was $10,560), and 46th in per-pupil instructional spending ($5,029; median state Louisiana at $6,258; national average $6,425).

Acknowledged, I guess I called them mid because they are not that far from California (my home). Call it low-mid. Maybe we can find some other data ... student-teacher ratio? Low-mid again.

California has one of the highest average salaries in the country for teachers, but ranked 35th in per-pupil instructional salaries and wages ($3,663) because of high student-teacher ratios. Colorado ranked 40th ($3,591). I'm not aware of how they rank in terms of average teacher salaries (I'm in California also).

I guess you could say that the difference between 35th and 40th on that measure is substantively "small" at $72 per student per year. But I'm not sure that that response is very persuasive in arguing that Colorado's overall spending on public schools is "midline".

California's expensive, though, at least in the major coastal metro areas. That alone would push teacher wages up, at least if you don't want to lose them to burn-out after a few years over and over again.

You can see the data as reported to the Census here:
Annie E. Casey reports spending adjusted for "regional cost differences" here:

In both Montana and Wyoming are near the top, presumably because they both need a lot of classroom heat and bus fuel ... we need something somehow normalized.

So, look at classroom instructional spending.
Montana: 22nd, $6,328. Wyoming: 4th, $9,366. Colorado, as noted above, 46th at $5,029.

Unless you think that Colorado classrooms are not insulated, whereas Montana's and Wyoming's are super-insulated, the differences are not attributable to heating costs.

Montana, and especially Wyoming, have lots of tiny schools that are very far apart. When you have so many high schools that are playing 5 man football you end up with some tiny class sizes. Also Wyoming is a very rich state.

I've always understood that the bigger issue is lack of uniformity in pension accrual and treatment of capital versus operating expenses. I'm always skeptical of these national education spend comparisons...the accounting rigor seems lacking to me.

DKF's point is a really good one. I am not an expert on this topic, but superficially at least, the Census Bureau's data standards appear to be pretty decent. How well and how consistently the various states comply is a good question. The figures I've cited above are for current spending (Table 8 from

for the interested reader, California's Dept of Education has an interesting table that tries to explain the differences in per-pupil spending calculations across 4 different reporting approaches (NCES, NEA, DOF's Prop 98 accounting, and a second DOF reporting structure, respectively).

Wow, four different reporting regimes, and even that doesn't get to whether districts uniformly separate capital and operating expenditures, and the pension issue. I'm not an expert either, but I once attempted to get a handle on local spend in my area (Houston). I discovered that the Texas Administration Agency manages two separate tables (one for charters, one for regular public), with different definitions, in poorly documented SAS files...and of course the pension contribution and accruals (if any) were separate from that. A real mess. IF that experience is typical, I think a note of caution is in order.

5 - 'investing' is a loaded word. Consensus is that more money does not improve "education" outcomes.

I'm glad I read this before posting a redundant comment. Really, the main issue of the referendum was whether spending that money would be an "investment".

I think taxpayers everywhere are wising up to the reality that spending more on public education seldom produces better educational outcomes.

More money may buy more compensation for teachers (salary &/or pension), or smaller class sizes, or expanded public education (e.g., preschool). BUT unless these contribute measurably to better outcomes none of it really matters.

The good news (BTW) is that a number of big-city Democrats have (finally!) broken with the teachers unions.

(And if "Average is Over," what does that say for the future of teachers unions- which insist that everyone is equally average within their experience-plus-grad-credits category?)

I'm not sure they are wising up. Even the most simple minded rube catches on eventually. That and people are broke. If the economy were booming, I bet it would have passed easily.

The last time California voted a big increase in education funding, most of the money went to true up underfunded teachers' pension pools.

The Colorado proposal offered full-day kindergarten which sounds good but has not proved out definitively anywhere.

School funding has increased drastically over the last 20 years without even marginal improvements in results.

I share the wish for better schools, but it asks a lot of voters to agree to substantial tax increases without some assurance the new spending will improve student performance.

I strongly disagree. The problem is not incompetent, disciplinarily impotent, and stupidly compensated teachers and apathetic parents. The real issue is that our kids don't have enough iPads and Ritalin. TECHNOLOGY!

Switching out of sarcasm mode, I am a firm believer in the principle that a kid with a beat-up old textbook, some pen and paper, and a competent teacher willing and able to push the kid will learn much more than a kid in the existing techno-utopia.

As a child of educators, and having grown up around education families, I think the single biggest factor is parent involvement, and behind that the parent's expectations about education. Good teachers (and to some degree good technology) can try to make up for a deficit at home, but it is a difficult task.

If a parent believes education will do his kid good, that kid will do well.

I shudder whenever I see reference to "parent involvement". I was very lucky in that my parents didn't interfere in my school work at all.

Maybe I'm being unfair. Am I interpreting "parent involvement" literally when it is meant as code for something else? Whenever I read boasts by (American) parents about how they did their children's "projects" for them, and coached them on their homework, I thank my lucky stars that I didn't grow up in an overbearing, interfering household.

Most research suggests that only the presence of parental involvement matters, except in extreme cases. I.e. all that matters is parents care about their children's education and try to help. How they approach that usually doesn't make a difference.

I think there's a difference between having high expectations and pushing your kid on the one hand and doing the kid's project for him on the other. The former is good while the latter is bad. I disparage technology and pills not because I think it's bad per se for kids to have calculators and computers and treatment for legitimate learning disabilities, but because it seems as if they're often used as a cheap ineffective substitute for parents taking a stronger interest in their kids' performance. It strikes me as more of a "throw money at the problem" kind of thing than as a real solution.

It's funny, home education would be the epitome of "parental involvement", right? But half the projects my project-doing kid completes I don't even know she's done. Pretty negligent, I guess, but since there's no competing pool and no audience, I don't have to be the mom up at 3 a.m. with her hot glue gun.

I think this is the deal. When my kids were in school, the school didn't want parental involvement because it didn't want parents in the classroom noticing that the kids weren't learning how to read. In schools where there is this mystical "involvement", sometimes it means parents notice and bark when the school is screwing up.

When parental involvement means what you are talking about, parents who live and compete with each other vicariously through the proxie golems, that's a twisted scenario that in no way corrects the faults of a school system. It's not helpful for parents to enter into the education program if in doing so they kick the kids out of it.

These days, parents with kids in school see so many things that could be improved that don't require more money.

Plus, the number of people with kids in school is quite low. So, it's easy to imagine that voters without kids in the home would rather keep their money than spend it on education, even if they thought it would improve education.

"Is William Vollmann underrated?"

Like most writers, he seems to have exactly the reputation he deserves.

He went down in my estimation after I read that interview, though that could be subjective. It's been a while since I read anything by him anyhow.

I think 5 should be changed to new tax dollars. If the initiative was to take from somewhere else even if it wasn't specified what would be cut, it would have passed.

Colorado's voters saw through the bullshit. It really was that simple.

Colorado A66

1. The YES on 66 campaigns ads were awful. Lots of "more art and music" classes. Really? Nothing in the amendment about that. So, the ads were lies and the voters smelled that.

2. It was [another] AMENDMENT to an already bloated state constitution. We have so many conflicting parts of the constitution related to spending requirements/restrictions and we don't need more.

3. Moving from a single tax rate to a [California-style] "progressive" multi-tier system is always going to be a very difficult sell.

$4b. The idea that, at some point, austerity is less a policy option and more something that happens to you, has been obvious to non-economists for a while now.

I still maintain (as I did in twitter) that there may have been a great stagnation, but the existence of a bullet-proof three piece suit demonstrates that we are no longer in a great stagnation.

Only if that money would have been spent on eugenics to make sure only high-IQ people bred would it actually have helped primary education. Ideologues and pretty much no one else still thinks money equates to education outcomes.

It's about time states stuffed the teachers unions like CO just did. Since 1980 per student spending has tripled in real terms with no academic gains and this is despite the Flynn effect. We need to figure out how to halve education spending. And then halve it again.

#3. Bulletproof three-piece suits.=> Must be polyester and who would wear that?
#5 I am pleasantly surprised by the Colorado voters.

Open Europe blog team:
"Furthermore, if Germany did start reflating quickly, with wages and prices going up, significant problems could be created for the ECB and its middle of the road, one-size-fits-all monetary policy. It would find it even harder to marry its single policy for a fast growing Germany and other countries."

On the contrary, more expansionary monetary policy would be a relatively painless way to bring the competitiveness of Germany and the Euro Area periphery into alignment. German workers would get higher wages and unenployed Spanish workers would get jobs. Krugman explained very clearly how this would work:

It's a win-win solution unless you like the idea of keeping German wages low and Spanish workers unemployed.

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