Search This Blog

Monday, May 19, 2014

Demand Analysis Analysis

Funds for Learning has released another E-Rate Demand Analysis, which is certainly worth a read.  The biggest change since last year: a new villain.  Last year it seemed like FFL was picking on the NYCBOE, making them their own category and showing how bloated their funding request was.  This year, they seem to have rural Alaska in the bullseye.  (Actually, FFL data analyses are usually balanced, so I assume that in reality, they were sifting the data and a few applications jumped out as extreme outliers.  As evidence that they don't have an axe to grind, they kept NYC as a separate category, showing that the Big Apple's request this year was quite modest.)

First, the silly complaints:
  1. "E-rate."  Even in the title of the document, which at least avoids the inconsistency others suffer.  If you're new to this blog, I hate the small "r."
  2. No pictures.  I have come to expect FFL reports to be filled with pictures so I don't have to actually read anything.  This report is just numbers.  Time to put on the waders.
Next, my analysis of the numbers.  And by "analysis," I mean "ill-considered comments on whatever jumps out at me."

Page 2: It's easy to see why FFL separated Alaska's data: the per-student pre-discount cost is $553, more than 5 times the next-highest state, and 10 times the national average.

Page 9: Look at the total per-student average of pre-discount costs: $36 for districts with a discount less than 60%, $47 for the 60-79% folks, $74 for those 80% and over.  I wish FFL had put 90% applicants in their own band, because, I think we would have seen an even bigger number for them.  So I'm back to my earlier rant on "incentives gone too far."  Why is there a discount matrix?  So that applicants with more low-income students have a more powerful incentive to purchase more.  Why?  I would say it's to ensure that low-income applicants can keep up with wealthier applicants.  But what these data show is that the incentive works too well: high-discount applicants spend twice as much as low-discount applicants.  Let's cut the top discount rate below 80%.  How about 65% like over at Rural Health Care?

Page 20: Suburbs request about 25% less per student than other applicants.  This reminds me of ESH's argument that applicants should be encouraged to get fiber, because it is cheaper and faster.  It makes just as much sense to say that applicants should be encouraged to become suburbs, because bandwidth is cheaper and faster in the suburbs.  That incentive would be easy to do with a new discount matrix: if 10% of your kids are low-income, you get a 40% discount if you're Urban, 50% if you're Rural, and 60% if you're Suburban.  Let's reward cost-effectiveness.  And hope that David Byrne was alone in thinking, "I wouldn't live there if you paid me."

Page 23: Holy crap!  Those remote Alaskans are spending almost $1,900/kid!  That's about 34 times the national average.  Remember when Obama said he wanted 99% of students to have high-speed broadband?  Well, I think we found that other 1%.

In short, my takeaways are:
  1. 80% off is too close to free.
  2. Throw Alaska under the bus.
  3. Fund the suburbs!

No comments:

Post a Comment