David Musgrave’s GP Partner Advice

In the GPUG Open Forum, @David Musgrave posted a link to his recent blog post admonishing GP Partners​ to tell their customers about GPUG and GPUG Chapter meetings. From David’s blog post:

A partner who is providing a high level of service will have no risk of losing a customer that talks with other customers, in fact they are likely to pick up new customers from the recommendations. I think a partner who hides the User Group community from their customers is only going to get a negative response when the customer eventually learns how many resources are really “out there”.

IMHYDAO (IMHumble Yet Deadly Accurate Opinion), Partners have the most direct effect on the growth of GPUG membership. In Wisconsin, the number of GPUG members has increased from about 300 in 2015 to nearly 800 today… and I think that our excellent group of Partners has been instrumental in that growth.

This got me thinking: is David’s experience in Australia the rule or the exception? He mentioned something we all know: it’s nigh onto impossible to get stats on the number or names of Dynamics GP customers in a particular area. Microsoft doesn’t let us know and the Partners don’t reveal their customer lists. I understand the desire to keep that information proprietary; but for us Chapter Leaders, it makes growing our Chapters problematic.

That is, if the Partners don’t tell their customers about GPUG, then the customers can generally only find out about it through web searches for solutions to problems. Then they’ll see links to GPUG Forum discussions, and they may be curious enough to look into membership.

Our “job” as Chapter Leaders is made easier when Partners promote GPUG and the local Chapters. Yes, the customers have to shell out annual dues; but you know how inexpensive that really is. It’s the Partners who can influence their GP customers the most to join GPUG. We as Chapter Leaders are pretty much on the sidelines. We can provide regular content at our meetings, but looking for new members is mostly out of our reach.

Doing any kind of outreach takes time. But we’ve got GPUG Summit (OK, OK… the User Group Summit!) coming up, and many of our Partners will be there in the Expo Hall and making presentations. I intend to seek out every one of our local Partners to ask them how they promote GPUG and recommend that they do so if they don’t. I also intend to ask as many Wisconsinite GPUGgers as I can 1) who their Partners are, and 2) how they learned about GPUG in the first place. I would hope that the knowledge gained will help the Wisconsin Chapters continue to grow.

Maybe you could do the same with Partners and GPUG members from your state that are attending Summit! Let me know what your experience has been: is it like David Musgrave’s; or are the Partners in your area hip to GPUG?

Sincerely,

Steve Erbach

 

Improving the schools

(Originally published 17-May-2011)

This will be a reprise of some comments I made during an email discussion about public education. I started off quoting from Jerry Pournelle’s web site:

Interesting commentary by Pournelle on improving – as John Taylor Gatto calls it – compulsory government monopoly mass schooling:

They’re rioting in Los Angeles. Well, not rioting, but a bunch of students have been whipped into a frenzy to “save their school.” The school is about the worst in the district. Union contracts don’t let the district just fire the incompetent teachers. The result is that the teachers are sending the pupils into the streets to save their jobs. The taxpayers get to foot the bill. I have not heard where the civics teachers stand on this matter. The students are blocking traffic and sitting in the streets.

The school in question had 5% test proficient in math last year. About 25% tested as proficient in English.

One wonders: wouldn’t it be better to “save” this school by transferring all the unfirable lousy teachers in Los Angeles to it. Save the place that way. It would improve all the other schools, and it’s unlikely to make that one worse. Not much could.

You may take it as a general rule: get the worst 10% of the teachers out of a school, distributing their students to the remaining teachers, and you will improve the school, probably very dramatically. So designate one awful school as the place to send all the worst teachers. It won’t hurt that school much, because not much can. It complies with the silly laws and rules that make it impossible to fire bad, incompetent, malicious, and generally unsatisfactory teachers, and it will do some good for the other schools. Admittedly it’s a silly way to improve a school system, but it may well be the only possible way, since there appears to be no way to change the rules.

One of my email friends took issue with Pournelle’s focus on teachers. So I responded:

More on this here. An excellent article:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/06/the-failure-of-american-schools/8497/

I’m not blaming the teachers only and neither does Pournelle. Much of the trouble we have comes from our reliance on a nearly monopolistic school system protected by state and federal laws and monopolistic employment control in those schools by the unions. What choice do we have?

We seem to excuse the poor performance of our schools as if the system were an invalid: give him a break because he can’t walk/talk/feed himself.

There doesn’t seem to be any consideration of how we might treat education if it were a business. I mean, if you buy a lemon from an auto dealer, you don’t excuse the dealer because the auto market is depressed or that he needs to pay his employees…you want that car made good!

An article by Donald Boudreaux in the Wall Street Journal touches on some of my pent-up frustration with the school system. You can only get at the full article by subscribing, but here’s the text if you promise not to tell anyone:

If Supermarkets Were Like Public Schools

What if groceries were paid for by taxes, and you were assigned a store based on where you live?

By DONALD J. BOUDREAUX

Teachers unions and their political allies argue that market forces can’t supply quality education. According to them, only our existing system – politicized and monopolistic – will do the trick. Yet Americans would find that approach ludicrous if applied to other vital goods or services.

Suppose that groceries were supplied in the same way as K-12 education. Residents of each county would pay taxes on their properties. Nearly half of those tax revenues would then be spent by government officials to build and operate supermarkets. Each family would be assigned to a particular supermarket according to its home address. And each family would get its weekly allotment of groceries – “for free” – from its neighborhood public supermarket.

No family would be permitted to get groceries from a public supermarket outside of its district. Fortunately, though, thanks to a Supreme Court decision, families would be free to shop at private supermarkets that charge directly for the groceries they offer. Private-supermarket families, however, would receive no reductions in their property taxes.

Of course, the quality of public supermarkets would play a major role in families’ choices about where to live. Real-estate agents and chambers of commerce in prosperous neighborhoods would brag about the high quality of public supermarkets to which families in their cities and towns are assigned.

Being largely protected from consumer choice, almost all public supermarkets would be worse than private ones. In poor counties the quality of public supermarkets would be downright abysmal. Poor people – entitled in principle to excellent supermarkets – would in fact suffer unusually poor supermarket quality.

What if groceries were supplied in the same way as K-12 education? How could it be otherwise? Public supermarkets would have captive customers and revenues supplied not by customers but by the government. Of course they wouldn’t organize themselves efficiently to meet customers’ demands.

Responding to these failures, thoughtful souls would call for “supermarket choice” fueled by vouchers or tax credits. Those calls would be vigorously opposed by public-supermarket administrators and workers.

Opponents of supermarket choice would accuse its proponents of demonizing supermarket workers (who, after all, have no control over their customers’ poor eating habits at home). Advocates of choice would also be accused of trying to deny ordinary families the food needed for survival. Such choice, it would be alleged, would drain precious resources from public supermarkets whose poor performance testifies to their overwhelming need for more public funds.

As for the handful of radicals who call for total separation of supermarket and state – well, they would be criticized by almost everyone as antisocial devils indifferent to the starvation that would haunt the land if the provision of groceries were governed exclusively by private market forces.

In the face of calls for supermarket choice, supermarket-workers unions would use their significant resources for lobbying – in favor of public-supermarkets’ monopoly power and against any suggestion that market forces are appropriate for delivering something as essential as groceries. Some indignant public-supermarket defenders would even rail against the insensitivity of referring to grocery shoppers as “customers,” on the grounds that the relationship between the public servants who supply life-giving groceries and the citizens who need those groceries is not so crass as to be discussed in terms of commerce.

Recognizing that the erosion of their monopoly would stop the gravy train that pays their members handsome salaries without requiring them to satisfy paying customers, unions would ensure that any grass-roots effort to introduce supermarket choice meets fierce political opposition.

In reality, of course, groceries and many other staples of daily life are distributed with extraordinary effectiveness by competitive markets responding to consumer choice. The same could be true of education – the unions’ self-serving protestations notwithstanding.

So my correspondent started speculating about why public schools needed to be monopolies. I found something to say about that:

My feeling is that once a thing is made “public” then it’s doomed to mediocrity at best, slow death at worst. Things “public” survive only because of massive subsidies through taxation or user fees.

Making something “public” means that it becomes progressively more bound up in a bureaucracy and, following Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy, the bureaucracy always evolves into an entity bent solely on self-preservation.

While we sit and dither over how best to re-mold public schools into something less disastrous, individuals are doing something about their own children’s education: home schooling comes to mind.

One of the things that gets my dander up (among many…education is a hot-button topic for me) is the fact that our representatives in Congress (and the President himself) largely send their own precious darlings to private schools. Big vote of confidence there, boy howdy!

What you seem to be saying is that everybody should have the same quality of education…a utopian ideal. The fact that they don’t elicits only a, “Well, darn! That just shouldn’t be!” Equity of outcomes is simply not possible. The failure of public schools will only lead to more money being spent frivolously and uselessly.

But right after I posted that I found something else:

Just found this commentary about school choice. It’s a response to the superintendent of the Green Bay, WI, school system who said that expanding school choice programs into the rest of Wisconsin (outside of Milwaukee) would be “a dagger in the heart of public education.” Contains some very good points; such as:

Giving families more control over where they can get a publicly funded education necessarily means less control for those in charge of what had been the only place you could get one.

…and:

Expanding school choice statewide is a dagger only if the heart of public education is compulsion and uniformity. Options harm only the power of existing, dominant systems, not education itself.

Compulsion and uniformity…the hallmark of public schools. Here’s the full article:

Choice: freedom for families

by Patrick McIlheran

May 14, 2011 |(39) Comments

A “dagger,” said the well-meaning man, “in the heart of public education.” That man, who superintends Green Bay’s public school system, was reacting to word that Gov. Scott Walker proposed letting parents statewide have the same option poor Milwaukeeans now have – to take their state school aid to a private school, if they choose it.

Parents with options: That was the violence that Greg Maass, that superintendent, was talking about. I don’t mean to single out Maass. He colorfully phrased the apocalyptic view that many others had toward Walker’s idea. A writer for The Progressive, the left-wing Madison magazine that figures we peaked in about 1938, tiresomely said it was “war on education.”

Right: To increase options is to war on education. Actually, though, that is the heart of the complaint of the public school establishment. Giving families more control over where they can get a publicly funded education necessarily means less control for those in charge of what had been the only place you could get one.

But will Walker’s idea kill off public education? Unlikely: Incumbent school systems already live with publicly funded competition.

About 220 charter schools – tuition-free, government-owned public schools – have drawn about 37,000 Wisconsin schoolchildren, every one of them a lost would-be client of traditional public schooling. Charters do this by offering something other than your ordinary public education.

There are charter schools that feel like boot camps and ones that feel like communes. There are old-fashioned-academic charters and environmentalism charters. They’re run by school districts, cities and universities. They’re in small towns, and Milwaukee is thick with them. They’re better funded than private voucher-taking schools in Milwaukee, though they still use a fraction of the funding of a traditional public school. You don’t even need to live near one, since 3,700 Wisconsin kids attend “virtual” charters, using specialized software to interact with teachers online.

None of this has polished off either Maass’ district or public education in Wisconsin.

For that matter, neither have vouchers polished off the Milwaukee Public Schools, which still draw about four times as many students as do choice schools. Critics routinely say that vouchers come at the expense of public schools, which is nonsense: Milwaukee’s choice money comes from an entirely separate pot of money than all other state school funding. Its only effect is to reduce MPS’ enrollment. Since districts’ funding depends, sensibly, on how many children they teach, this means less money for MPS.

But only and exactly in the way that MPS loses money when parents send their children to charter schools instead. Or across the district’s border to another public school, as anyone in Wisconsin can do. Or when they choose to move to a suburb. The flow of families out of Wisconsin cities and into suburbs has been a decades-long exercise of choice, just one far more available to people with money than without.

The public-school establishment doesn’t cotton to charters, either. Administrators and teachers routinely complain that charter schools – public schools, mind you – are bad for public schooling. Teachers unions were among the most vehement foes of virtual charters, though they are unionized.

That’s the giveaway: Expanding school choice statewide is a dagger only if the heart of public education is compulsion and uniformity. Options harm only the power of existing, dominant systems, not education itself.

“We could accommodate about 1,000 students” in private schools should choice expand to Racine, said Laura Sumner-Coon, a leader in the choice movement there. Racine’s public schools now have 21 times that many students. If the expansion goes by the Milwaukee rules, the private schools couldn’t pick and choose who comes, they’d have to make results public and they’d need more outside accreditation than public schools.

And every child they’d take would be sent voluntarily by parents no longer compelled to use one particular system. That’s threatening if you make your living off that one particular system. But if you’re just interested in seeing children educated in the way their parents see best, it’s a win.

Patrick McIlheran is a Journal Sentinel editorial columnist. E-mail pmcilheran@journalsentinel.com