"Fuzzy Math"

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"Fuzzy Math"

Postby andysinnh » Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:21 am

So I had the pleasure of being at the St James polling location on tuesday with Roy Swonger for the vast majority of the day. Saw a lot of folks, and met many from the forum I hadn't seen in a while or ever before. I also had some good conversation with Jenn Tw's sister, father, and step mother. Everything was cordial, even when we had discussions that didn't match up in terms of beliefs. It was a fairly enjoyable day, with the sox winning, and the snow only flurrying. :D

Another thing I got to see while there was an extended look at the 3 "facts" that were posted from Jenn/Dan. For those who didn't see them (my understanding was that they were at all 3 polling stations), they can be summarized like this:
- Fact 1 - Tuition at BG - $9,xxx
- Fact 2 - Tuition (in-state) at UNH - $10,xxx
- Fact 3 - Cost per-student for Merrimack schools - $12,xxx

(I'm xxx'ing the numbers since I can't remember the specific dollars, but you can get the gist)

Now, I majored in math and statistics and computers at college, and I realize that you can spin numbers to say anything you want. But in Jenn's email post-election she talked about the "bullies" getting elected in this time. To me, the data they posted was, in a way, trying to get the attention of voters and make them think things are way more out of whack than they really are - in some ways, another style of "bullying". Let's look at each fact, and what's really behind it:

- Fact 1 - Yes, the tuition at BG is $9,xxx, but what they didn't put down was the COST for each kid at BG. What funding is provided by the diocese to support the school? The figures also don't include books and transportation. And also note that BG has a screening process of who they allow to get into school. They don't have to accept all comers, they don't have the level of special need/special ed deliverables (if any), and also don't provide many classes other than the college-prep level. So what we don't have is the COST here, and also the fact that product delivered is different. So, to me, this comparison is "fuzzy".

- Fact 2 - The in-state tuition at UNH is just over $10k. But the out of state tuition is over $22k. And if you take the total population of students that pay to go there, that's an average tuition of well over $15k. Also, for in-state, it also doesn't account for books and for state subsidies for in-state students, which also comes into play. Again, this isn't applies to apples, since it lists tuition, NOT cost.

- Fact 3 - Again, this is the COST of a full-service educational offering, including transportation, special education costs, books, etc. If you take away state aid, I think the realized COST is under $10k per student, which gets you near the tuition for BG. And, if you compare to the average COST across the state for public schools, we're right in the middle of the pack.

So, while it created good conversation, there's not much meat behind these "facts", and what I would have been interested in doing was to ask Dan and Jenn what their goal was by the whole exercise....

andy
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Re: "Fuzzy Math"

Postby RD » Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:30 am

andysinnh wrote:- Fact 2 - The in-state tuition at UNH is just over $10k. But the out of state tuition is over $22k. And if you take the total population of students that pay to go there, that's an average tuition of well over $15k. Also, for in-state, it also doesn't account for books and for state subsidies for in-state students, which also comes into play. Again, this isn't applies to apples, since it lists tuition, NOT cost.

When I went to college, tuition was only half of the major cost of my education. The other half was something called fees.
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Re: "Fuzzy Math"

Postby andysinnh » Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:35 am

RD wrote:
andysinnh wrote:- Fact 2 - The in-state tuition at UNH is just over $10k. But the out of state tuition is over $22k. And if you take the total population of students that pay to go there, that's an average tuition of well over $15k. Also, for in-state, it also doesn't account for books and for state subsidies for in-state students, which also comes into play. Again, this isn't applies to apples, since it lists tuition, NOT cost.

When I went to college, tuition was only half of the major cost of my education. The other half was something called fees.

In all fairness, that $10,xxx figure is UNH tuition with all fees added in - but not books. I went to look it up before I posted. The base tuition is like $8,xxx and the fees are about $2k total... But it still doesn't change the overall point of the post - the revenue input to the university is a blend of in-state and out-of-state tuition, which brings the coverage for their costs to a much higher value....
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Re: "Fuzzy Math"

Postby John Langdon » Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:57 am

andysinnh wrote:- Fact 1 - Tuition at BG - $9,xxx
- Fact 2 - Tuition (in-state) at UNH - $10,xxx
- Fact 3 - Cost per-student for Merrimack schools - $12,xxx

So, while it created good conversation, there's not much meat behind these "facts", and what I would have been interested in doing was to ask Dan and Jenn what their goal was by the whole exercise....


The goal, Andy, was to illustrate the cost assumed by the taxpayer per pupil in Merrimack versus tuition at Guertin, a private school, and UNH, a higher institution of learning. And, that might have been enough "red" meat to motivate the masses (read: fiscal conservatives) to the polls in past years, but there wasn't the outrage present in this town it had a year ago.

The thing is you may have another outcry next year when the budget cycle occurs, and the economy and disposable income (term is loosely used) tightens.

I'm sorry I didn't trek down to SJN yesterday. Are you headed to CMan on Friday?

Bill
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Re: "Fuzzy Math"

Postby John Langdon » Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:57 am

Duplicated post. Sorry.

Bill
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Re: "Fuzzy Math"

Postby andysinnh » Thu Apr 12, 2007 11:24 am

John Langdon wrote:The goal, Andy, was to illustrate the cost assumed by the taxpayer per pupil in Merrimack versus tuition at Guertin, a private school, and UNH, a higher institution of learning. And, that might have been enough "red" meat to motivate the masses (read: fiscal conservatives) to the polls in past years, but there wasn't the outrage present in this town it had a year ago.

The thing is you may have another outcry next year when the budget cycle occurs, and the economy and disposable income (term is loosely used) tightens.

I'm sorry I didn't trek down to SJN yesterday. Are you headed to CMan on Friday?

Bill

Bill - not sure if I'll be making it to CM on Friday - been pretty busy at work these days, but I'll try to stop in for a bit...

My point was that the comparison of tuition to cost was an invalid one. If you put the COST in for all 3, and also listed what they delivered for that cost, then maybe it'd be a fair comparison. But my belief is that if you did that, the cost for a merrimack student would be far less than at college, and similar to BG but for less in terms of "deliverables". Putting up facts in the way they did is like comparing 2 salaries - one at Net, the other at Gross. Too much in between to draw a real conclusion.

If we're going to fight the fight for reducing costs, you can't use misleading information to gain a point. Pertinent comparative facts will get you concensus. My casual observance of watching people read that board at the polls was that for every person who said "that's horrible that we spend that much", there were two who walked by with the same reaction I had above - and that included kids who weren't old enough to vote, but were old enough to understand it wasn't apples to apples...

andy
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Postby Ken Coleman » Thu Apr 12, 2007 1:13 pm

You can not compare private school cost with public school as they do not have the high cost special education students at the private schools.

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Re: "Fuzzy Math"

Postby John Langdon » Thu Apr 12, 2007 3:39 pm

andysinnh wrote:
John Langdon wrote:The goal, Andy, was to illustrate the cost assumed by the taxpayer per pupil in Merrimack versus tuition at Guertin, a private school, and UNH, a higher institution of learning. And, that might have been enough "red" meat to motivate the masses (read: fiscal conservatives) to the polls in past years, but there wasn't the outrage present in this town it had a year ago.

The thing is you may have another outcry next year when the budget cycle occurs, and the economy and disposable income (term is loosely used) tightens.

I'm sorry I didn't trek down to SJN yesterday. Are you headed to CMan on Friday?

Bill

Bill - not sure if I'll be making it to CM on Friday - been pretty busy at work these days, but I'll try to stop in for a bit...

My point was that the comparison of tuition to cost was an invalid one. If you put the COST in for all 3, and also listed what they delivered for that cost, then maybe it'd be a fair comparison. But my belief is that if you did that, the cost for a merrimack student would be far less than at college, and similar to BG but for less in terms of "deliverables". Putting up facts in the way they did is like comparing 2 salaries - one at Net, the other at Gross. Too much in between to draw a real conclusion.

If we're going to fight the fight for reducing costs, you can't use misleading information to gain a point. Pertinent comparative facts will get you concensus. My casual observance of watching people read that board at the polls was that for every person who said "that's horrible that we spend that much", there were two who walked by with the same reaction I had above - and that included kids who weren't old enough to vote, but were old enough to understand it wasn't apples to apples...

andy


You asked a question as to what was the point behind that info and I provided the point. I'm not so sure that I agree with it either; I'd have to think about it some more.

However, from a political/PR standpoint, it's a pretty shrewd statement or observation to make to everyday people who juggle personal finances every payday to meet and provide for their family. Is it misleading? The statements are not saying what a student receives for the tuition cost; it states a tuition charge which is fact. For a Merrimack student, I agree that Ken's point is valid because you would have to remove SpEd from the equation to make the comparison on par. Except there can be no exception to this rule; my taxes pay for SpEd. Therefore, it really should be factored into this equation because we are talking about a per student cost for a given school system. You can't decide what's relevant and what isn't relevant when determining a median cost to school a child. You look at what each person pays, regardless of whether or not there is a direct benefit.

Therefore, the more I think about this, the more I would quibble a bit with you and Ken on the comparison between public and private schools. SpEd spending is a VERY important point to consider because a family w/out a SpEd student may opt to pay to send their child to a private school because of course offerings, extra-curricular component, etc.....due to costs associated with SpEd (amongst others) that may negate what is being offered by a school district. In the same vein, people equate cost with the value of the "service" being offered. So, if a family thinks Guertin offers better value for their educational dollar, then, that's where they want their child to attend (consider the voucher argument on this parallel for school choice). Until such time vouchers become reality or the FedGovt starts writing checks for unfunded mandates, the community needs to address spending responsibly.

Consider for a moment the fact that the State of NH has proposed mandatory kindergarten for child...except there's no funding structure (another Claremont in the works?), but the powers that rule Concord want that. It's the cities and towns that impose the mandate with the community taxpayers absorbing the hit on their property taxes. Why should I subscribe to the theory in Concord that every child should have kindergarten? To me, this is a local control issue (Aside, I support kindergarten; I am using the concept to illustrate a point.); the people should decide this issue because they are directly impacted by this decision. And, yesterday, the voters approved a larger budget that included a reinstatement of $700K for....whatever. The voters approved the allocation; now the school board decides whether or not to spend it - local control at its pure essence!

There are ways to maintain our schools and cut cost without affecting quality. I don't buy the argument that spending less on schools hurts children. However, I don't subscribe to the thought that we need to spend less either. I voted for the default budget because I actually believe the Board did a great job subscribing to the above train of thought. They found efficiencies, spent money on the energy audit which will save money for us down the road and yet was able to preserve quality for our kids.

This was a good moment for Merrimack education, however, it's few and far between from what has happened in the past. I would point out to you that the elementary Everyday Math curricula was instituted to address Merrimack's NI grade and after a few years, some of the parents on this forum have begun to question its effectiveness. Which raises the question: are we spending money on curricula that will teach our kids correctly? This is one of the underlying themes behind the facts on that poster, to wit: are we (we = community) getting the most bang for our buck? If education is the most important investment we can give to our children, then we need to protect the capital funding (i.e. property taxes) of that investment by spending responsibly, not recklessly, which is why people like myself will continue to beat a drum pointing these facts out.

Bill
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Re: "Fuzzy Math"

Postby Michael Thompson » Thu Apr 12, 2007 4:44 pm

John Langdon wrote:However, from a political/PR standpoint, it's a pretty shrewd statement or observation to make to everyday people who juggle personal finances every payday to meet and provide for their family. Is it misleading? The statements are not saying what a student receives for the tuition cost; it states a tuition charge which is fact.


Bill I agree that it does state a fact, however it is the message that was being conveyed that is misleading.

It is like saying:

Car A is 10K

Car B is 15K

Car C is 20K

Which on is the best value?
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Postby andysinnh » Thu Apr 12, 2007 5:08 pm

Bill (this is in reply to your long response, which I'll save disk space by not quoting here) -

I hear what you're saying, but you CAN'T compare the "value" of Guertin vs the "value" of UNH vs. the "cost" of Merrimack. What's the "value" of Merrimack in comparison? And what's the "cost" of Londonderry? And the "cost" of Souhegan? If you're going to play the game, play it with the same pieces, not ones that get people to start cussing about not getting "value", since they can't see the real comparison.

Let's say that I get the "cost" of sending a student to UNH, and that "cost" is $16k per year. Would MC have put that on their sign to compare? LIkely not, since that wouldn't have supported their contention that we pay way too much per kid. And what if we stripped out the cost of special ed from Merrimack, and compared that to Guertin and found we were much less. Would that have made it to the sign?

Again, I get offended when someone with an opposing point puts FUD out there by putting incomplete or non-comparative data out there. If I did that at work, I'd get fired in a split second. Perhaps my ethics are above what I saw, but I just don't agree with the tactic....

andy
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Postby JMac1000 » Thu Apr 12, 2007 5:31 pm

Brilliant....Take the net tuition cost @ UNH, and compare it to the "per pupil cost "in Merrimack. I am sure that the per student costs are UNH are well above Merrimack. It would have to be. Teacher salaries and benefits make up 3/4th of the budget. What does a Full Professor make vs. a Teacher in Merrimack? Probably double, and then some. At UNH, state aid defrays the tuition costs. And in Merrimack you are not looking at tuiton, but "per pupil", which does not take into account state aid. Go to any private college, that does not have state aid, and tell me what the average tuition is? Its about 25,000, more than double Merrimack.

I am surprised that they did not compare Merrimack's per pupil cost with other towns, instead of this BG, UNH comparison, which has no validity whatsoever. I would speculate that our per pupil costs are on the higher side.
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Postby John Langdon » Fri Apr 13, 2007 5:47 am

andysinnh wrote:Again, I get offended when someone with an opposing point puts FUD out there by putting incomplete or non-comparative data out there. If I did that at work, I'd get fired in a split second. Perhaps my ethics are above what I saw, but I just don't agree with the tactic....


1) What is FUD? The caffeine hasn't kicked in yet.

2) If you don't agree with the tactic, then vote accordingly. You shouldn't get offended by political tactics, Andy. It is what it is and it truly is up to the voters to separate the wheat from the chaff. As I said to you before, it was "red" meat to stir up the conservative angst and it wasn't particularly effective.

3) Lastly, value is subjective in the eyes of the beholder. If yearly tuition for a high school education is 3K less than the "per pupil" cost at Merrimack, then the question becomes how much value does a Guertin education have versus a Merrimack education. The UNH presentation is in a slightly different context, the taxpayer's - to wit: my taxes "per pupil" are higher than 1 year's tuition at UNH; where's my money going?

Jamie MacFarland's post astutely points out the fact that more kids go to UNH, then in Merrimack (Thank God!), but one quibble is while UNH gets state aid, so does Merrimack with Claremont money.

Andy, truth is, I am happy that I had absolutely nothing to do with this. And, I want to acknowledge that I hear what you're saying as well. I stilll think, to a certain extent, that it raises a good point on what and how we value education in this town and while you may not agree with the packaging, it got you to think about how this town spends its education dollars. To me, that's the most important discussion.

Bill
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Postby RD » Fri Apr 13, 2007 6:00 am

John Langdon wrote:It is what it is and it truly is up to the voters to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I disagree. Purposely misleading voters is unethical and dangerous. Just look at Bush and Iraq.

John Langdon wrote:to wit: my taxes "per pupil" are higher than 1 year's tuition at UNH; where's my money going?

Huh? My taxes per pupil are less than $1.
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Postby JMac1000 » Fri Apr 13, 2007 6:08 am

RD,

I did not like the University/Private School comparison to Merrimack, because it reminded me of the Dems tactics of saying the Bush tax cuts went exclusively to the wealthy. Both are misleading. Here you have Dems like Kerry who refuse to admit that there were tax cuts across the board, at all income levels. Saying 80% of the dollar cuts went to the top 5% of income earners says nothing. The top 5% of income earners make 80% of the money.If you look at families at the lowest levels of income, many of them are not paying taxes at all because of the Bush cuts. Lower, and middle income families with many children are getting huge child tax credits The Dems seem to ignore that, conveniently.

I do not think Bill should take the heat on this one. It was not his idea. It probably was not Jenns either.
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Postby Andy Sylvia » Fri Apr 13, 2007 7:07 am

Jamie MacFarland wrote:Lower, and middle income families with many children are getting huge child tax credits The Dems seem to ignore that, conveniently.


Define huge. And then please define the losses of services from those tax cuts going to people who don't need tax cuts when the middle and lower classes are suffering.
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