PSEO correction – setting me straight

I’m more of a eagle’s view of the forest than an ant’s view of the weeds fellow. I see us taking $3.4 million of our local tax levy which should be going to the classroom and watch helplessly as our District transfers it annually to pay off Red Plan debts that balooned out of control. I do a quick mental calculation – $3.4 million divided by 1 average teacher’s pay and benefits of $90,000 – and conclude that this results in 37.7 teachers we can’t hire to bring down Freshman English class sizes of 42 students at Denfeld.

In my recent post about the woes of Denfeld High School I concluded with the satement that PSEO (Post Seconday Education Option) classes suck money out of the Duluth Schools. Well, that is a gross oversimplification. Yeah, the kids who lost out on advanced classes we didn’t make available for them are too late to sign up for college classes but when they take those classes at UMD or Lake Superior State the financial transaction isn’t quite “suck[ing] revenues from our budget.”

Here’s part of a sympathetic email sent to me today with a far more refined explanation:

You (I hope inadvertently) forward the perception that it is the districts that “pay” for students attending PSEO. Districts do not pay tuition, they simply are not paid by the state as they did not educate the child. The state “pays” the college, not the district. The money, and actually not all of it , follows the student (even if a student is 100% PSEO, districts get a sizable hold-back). Like with open enrollment, the argument has long been crafted with the language that the districts “pay”, when in fact the money follows the student to the educational institution that actually provides the education.

I think another way to look at PSEO would be, “…they have another option available to them — college classes through PSEO, which sucks expenses from our budget and allows us to keep some state revenue even though we have no expenses to educate the student.”

Theoretically, if each and every junior and senior were to choose PSEO, the district would have no expenses to educate those students, but would still get about $800 per student they did not educate…. although I would not advocate for such, that might be an interesting and successful business model!

Anyway, the language used is perpetuated from a perspective of historic monopoly and control, where students and families were not allowed choices, and the state revenue was seen as the right and property of the monopoly system. In this perspective, when a student chooses an alternative it is only viewed as lost revenue, rather than both lost revenue AND lost expenses….like something has been “taken”

So, not to be an overly nit-picky editor…. but this sort of language is (a) not accurate, and (b) reinforces myths espoused by those opposed to choice.

Anyway, thanks for your ongoing diligence in all these issues!

And I appreciate being set straight.