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Microsoft Calls For $5B Investment In U.S. Education

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the throw-money-at-it dept.

Education 257

Dupple sends this quote from ComputerWorld: "Congress should invest $5 billion in the country's education system — particularly in math, science and technology education — over the next 10 years and pay for it with increased fees on high-skill immigration, a Microsoft executive said. The U.S. needs to push more resources into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education because technology companies are running into huge shortages of workers, said Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel and executive vice president. With most U.S. industries relying heavily on IT systems, other companies will soon start to see those worker shortages as well, unless the country focuses more on STEM education, he said during a speech at the Brookings Institution Thursday.'We need to do something new,' he said. 'We need to try something different.'"

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Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my ass (5, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#41487717)

You know, normally I defend Bill Gates and MS, just because I feel *someone* should stand up against all the reflexive MS-bashing around here. But on this, I've got to call a spade a spade (and a scumbag ploy a scumbag ploy) and point out that this whole "it's for education" stageshow is nothing more than a cynical attempt on MS's part to get more H1-B visas (i.e. slavery licenses) so they can import cheap high-skilled labor rather than raise their salaries to hire U.S. workers. MS is basically pitching the idea of the government letting them buy a presumably unlimited number of H1-B visas (and even permanent green cards now too), and trying to cloak it with a bunch of "this will help the kids" education horseshit.

The whole H1-B visa program needs to be severely curtailed, NOT expanded. The idea of H1-B visas started out as a reasonable sounding idea. When we have critical shortages, we can give special visa exemptions for foreign workers. But, in practice in recent years, it's become nothing more than a way for big corps to skirt the free labor market and artificially suppress wages for skilled labor. You advertise a job at a ridiculously low wage, or with ridiculous requirements, and when no American worker responds or qualifies (because American programmers and engineers won't work for $30,000 a year and don't have 20+ years Java development experience), you run crying to Congress and the Labor Dept. that you need more H1-B visas to fill the "critical shortages of qualified workers." So then you can import foreigners willing to work for cheap, rather than raise wages to get American workers (who ARE out there, and ARE willing to work--just not for peanuts). And, to top it all off, you can cleverly skirt the "prevailing wage" provisions of the H1-B program by artificially keeping wages low, or defining the job so narrowly that there is no field to compare it to. Corporations for the win!

And, sadly, the whole scam has been backed (and consistently expanded) by both Republican and Democrats in this country--not surprisingly, since they're both just corporate subsidiaries at this point. And while people have been warning about abuses in the program [] for years, their complaints are consistently lost in the rain of cash the big corps are dumping on Washington before every election.

In short, fuck you Microsoft. You're not fooling me (and hopefully not anyone else).

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41487733)

How the fuck did you create a 410 word post time stamped at the same exact time that the article was posted? I detect some tomfoolery here.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#41487801)

How the fuck did you create a 410 word post time stamped at the same exact time that the article was posted? I detect some tomfoolery here.

Grandparent is a subscriber, so he can see the article before it goes green and gets sent out to the unwashed masses.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (3, Interesting)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 2 years ago | (#41487931)

You can also just go to /recent and post on articles not yet posted?

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41487945)

Slashdot Post: 10:12AM 400 word response: @10:21AM Your response: 10:19AM Someone is traveling back in time and not telling the rest of us.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488705)

Slashdot Post: 10:12AM
400 word response: @10:21AM
Your response: 10:19AM

Someone is traveling back in time and not telling the rest of us.

Like you think Slashcode can handle something as complex as time?

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41487751)

I'm calling bullshit.

The article says nothing about expanding H1-B visas. It says that the government should increase the price by around a factor of 4 for existing H1-B visas to pay for expanded education programs in US schools.

Expansion of education is not a ploy.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (4, Informative)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488231)

Maybe read the article?

Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel and executive vice president, presented a plan to add 20,000 H-1B visas and an equal number of STEM visa green cards to help companies get qualified workers.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488247)

Recommendation #1:
Establish a new and supplemental allocation of 20,000 H-1B STEM visas to meet employersâ(TM) hiring needs and generate up to $200 million for new investments in the American STEM pipeline.

Linking H-1B to "STEM pipelines" will also help it survive political adversity.

Personally, I don't mind the presence of the H-1B. But it shouldn't be a indentured servant program because then, US workers can't compete with H-1B visa workers (it wouldn't be legal for US workers to work under similar conditions to those that H-1B visa workers experience, such as getting booted out of the country, if the company fires them).

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (3, Interesting)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488415)

Part of the plan includes increasing the fees for visas by about 4-5 times.

That said, I don't think even a $10000/year fee (It looks like it's $10k one-time being proposed?) is enough... The fee should be at least $20000/year to reduce the financial incentives for companies to use the visas.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (4, Interesting)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488675)

Except they KNOW the money won't actually improve education. They will basically just buy more visas.

The real problem is that US students are competing with India and China students... Their population EACH is four times the US. If a similar "top 10%" of talent is equal to our students, there are 8 foreign students for 1 American competing for jobs. It's a numbers game.

The second problem is that American schools refuse to teach students the "job skills" portion of CS degrees. The game has always been that you get out of school and have to work really cheap... That was nice for companies that were hiring for a 10 year plan. In the new scheme, the foreign kids are coming from schools focused on producing programmers with years of real experience.

Lastly, there really aren't THAT many jobs in the high end STEM fields. Biology and chemistry are filled with PHd hopefuls doing most of the day-to-day work... At half pay. But there's no jobs when they actually GET the PHd. Engineering just plain isn't building anything... The old guys can barely keep their jobs. Computer Sciences don't really employ that many people. For a company like Apple or Microsoft with 100k workers, way less than half are actually programming... Most are service or sales jobs. So unless you really want to live on the east or west coast, there really isn't a return on investment for going with an insanely hard CS program. For the most part, jobs are supporting manufacturing or sales activities... The Financial and Siftware jobs are really the 10% tip of the iceberg.

India and China have better test takers (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488903)

India and China have better test takers and india coders suck and turn out poor code

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41487791)

Lots of supportless facts (coughs - assumptions) happening in that statement...

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41487899)

I'm pretty sure they're pushing STEM inside the US...

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (-1)

Revotron (1115029) | more than 2 years ago | (#41487949)

7-digit UID. Response prepared and posted as soon as the story went live. Makes accusations and forms conclusions not supported by the summary or article. This is very, very suspicious.

We've seen Microsoft astroturfers plenty of times before... maybe now we're witnessing history with the first EFF astroturfer?

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (1)

junkgoof (607894) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488153)

Uh, the guy is correct on all his points...

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (2)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488551)

7 digit UIDs have been around for a while, I've seen the GP post often lately, it's not like he just signed up for the account today as is usual for shillage. As was mentioned by another commenter, he's a subscriber. Subscribers see the articles before they're posted, and the time they will be posted is marked on it. Easy to have a relevant, non-troll FP when you're a subscriber.

As to EFF "astroturfer," since the Electronic Frontier Foundation is a true grassroots outfit, there is no such thing as "EFF astroturfing." Anyone who is concerned with freedom will be an EFF booster.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (0)

singhulariti (1963000) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488203)

Everybody here keeps talking about $30K jobs and 20 years experience as a ploy to keep American "skilled" workers away, yet I've never seen it myself. Full disclosure, I'm on an H1B and I ONLY interview for jobs upwards of 90k and YET I hardly see any other American candidates. And it's not like I work on some exotic technologies, they're vanilla Java financial software stuff. I call BS on H1B as a source of cheap labor, I am NOT cheap labor nor are all my other friends who work with me.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (1)

liquidweaver (1988660) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488421)

If we are going off anecdotal evidence, I consult with several companies hiring H1B and I only see 30k/year salaries being offered. I call BS on your unqualified implied generalization.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488441)

The real problem is that many Americans can't admit to themselves that we've been shorting our education funding since at least the Reagan administration and now we're starting to pay for it. We've got a nation of undereducated idiots and we have the choice between importing skilled labor or exporting skilled jobs. Worse, they're all voting.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488627)

Hey hey hey... let's try to keep religion out of this shall we? I presume that by "nation of undereducated idiots" that's what you're talking about.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41489033)

See, this is the kind of shit that makes me embarassed to admit that I'm an atheist. I'm worried that I'll get lumped in with people like you.

Look, the Catholic high school near me is giving a better education than the city public schools even though they're wasting student time every day on a bullshit mythology class. Where the fuck am I supposed to send my kids when they get old enough?

But, you know, "hurr religiooun durr". That attitude isn't counterproductive at all.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488207)

Well, I'm going to defend Microsoft because of your reflex bashing. Oh wait, maybe they were right all along and now you FINALLY understand.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488237)

I wouldn't mind more H1-B visas to fill jobs, so long as American workers are seriously considered first to fill the job rolls. Sadly, that's not always the case and the system is abused as you suggested in the name of corporate greed and profits. Some companies use a different ploy...they advertise a job with a decent salary, interview U.S. citizens for the job but with no intentions of hiring them. Then, they cry to congress that they need visas for workers who have the experience to fill these job rolls. It would be nice if there was a way to weed out the corruption in the system.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488659)

There is a way. It's called the congressional hearing. They have had those and nothing seems to come of it. In the end, they seem to end up becoming a political contribution drive.

Ironic (2)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488453)

If this is indeed the case, then Bill is calling for more money to be spent to educate kids who will never be able to find work because of the H1-B workers have it all locked up.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (5, Informative)

bratmobile (550334) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488555)

I'm a fairly high-level architect at Microsoft. I have interviewed a metric F-load of people, many of which are international candidates. If we could hire all domestic, we would, because the paperwork is way easier. But the most important thing is, the actual salary that we pay people (and all the paperwork and such) actually rarely figures into the hire / no-hire decision. For us, it's all about that person's skills and what they bring to the team.

I would be very, very happy to see the cost of H1Bs go way up, in order to fund tech education. Companies WILL pay the money. And the best part about that is, it doesn't give any company a competitive advantage over any other company -- it's a level playing-field. Often when I hear companies gripe about some change in laws, I use that to judge whether the griping is legitimate or not -- does a change in law favor one company (or one kind of company) more than other? But in this case, no, it doesn't. All tech companies that need to hire will face the same labor market.

H1B is not slavery. The majority of H1B workers are young and single, usually a few years out of college. H1B gives them an opportunity to come to the states and 1) gain really valuable experience, 2) make a decent amount of money. Most of the H1B workers I meet are Indian, Chinese, or Russian. They make very good money. Good money in US terms, and *fantastic* money by the cost-of-living of where they came from. If they don't like their work conditions, they can leave. Just like any other job on the planet. If they do, they still made a ton of money, and still have a gig with American Mega-Awesome Corp or whatever on their resume. That's hardly slavery.

I would seriously love to see more American candidates. But where *are* they?? Most of the candidates from domestic CS programs are, frankly, very weak candidates. There are exceptions, but they are exceptions. (For example, the Brown CS program is excellent, and produces a steady stream of first-class CS students.) Most of the American candidates I interview know a little web programming, and maybe some Java, but are extremely weak on machine architecture, assembly programming, networking, performance analysis, and problem-solving abilities.

Put down the blunt and get a security clearance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488641)

You aren't going to be competing with an underpaid foreign national on a work visa at Lockheed fucking Martin or Raytheon or Stark Enterprises or whereever, now are you? But oh no, they're required to do random drug tests, so half of Slashdot is ineligible!

Re:Put down the blunt and get a security clearance (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488975)

At Stark Enterprises you have to compete with JARVIS though. Which would pretty much limit your job opportunities to Eye Candy for Tony, or the guy who makes annoying kinetic sculptures for the desk of Pepper Potts.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488669)

When we have critical shortages

The problem is, we know there has never been critical shortages in the tech industry. That was all bullshit. It really boiled down to these companies not wanting to pay fair market price. So the alternative was to flood the market to with more people thereby lowering the fair market price. Saying I can't hire a mechanic for $1/hr is not the same thing as suggesting there is a shortage of mechanics. Yet that's the entire basis for the H1B program.

Microsoft has a long history of firing workings while claiming there are none available so as to qualify them to re-hire lower paid foreign workers for the exact same job.

Fuck Microsoft.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488709)

"because American programmers and engineers won't work for $30,000 a year and don't have 20+ years Java development experience" seriously? I have been interviewing candidates for Java development position with a salary of 100K+ and couldn't hire anyone after 3 months. All of those candidates were non-americans or asians.

I bet you if you advertise java developer position for $200K a year, all of the candidates will be non-americans or asians. Why? Because american students are busy in drugs and girls how come they become software engineers?

H1b programs has lots of problems I agree but its still too hard to find people with good skill set and if you add this constraint of american citizen, forget about about filling the position my friend.

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488721)

If Microsoft's idea of "cheap labor" and "ridiculously low wage" and "ridiculous requirements" is over $135,000/year and top-notch benefits for someone from a mediocre US university with less than 3 years of work experience, pray tell: how do you call this "manipulating the labor market?" I make more money than many career lawyers who went to school and have been working much longer than I have. What more do you feel I deserve? Sense of entitlement much?

Re:Just a cheap H1-B visa scam, "for the kids" my (1)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488971)

The whole thing would be easy to fix. Just require the company to offer the workers 10% more then what the CEO earns (including bonuses and stock options). If they can't get a worker under those terms, then sure, import someone.

Everyone has it all wrong (3, Insightful)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 2 years ago | (#41487759)

Students don't go into STEM not because it isn't being pushed enough, but because they know they'll get paid more in business fields. Plain and simple. Why waste 7-8 years getting a PhD in math only to discover no university or business will hire you for math or research? Oh, but the NYSE will happily hire you on as a quant if you go into corporate finance instead, and that's a four year BA.

Re:Everyone has it all wrong (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#41487863)

Indeed. Start paying engineers more than MBAs, and the problem will fix itself.

Re:Everyone has it all wrong (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41487883)

Given that those who are doing the hiring are likely MBAs themselves, you're not going to see that happen.

Re:Everyone has it all wrong (3, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488167)

Also include teachers in this mix. If you want really good engineers to graduate from 5-year college programs, you need good math teachers in secondary schools. And the only way you're going to get good math teachers in secondary schools is to pay them enough so that it's a rational economic choice to go into teaching rather than engineering (or engineering stock trades).

Re:Everyone has it all wrong (3, Insightful)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | more than 2 years ago | (#41487877)

Exactly, there's not enough jobs for STEM. Microsoft calling the world having a lack of shortage of workers is just cover for them to get cheap labor. There's tons of unemployed yet educated and skilled labor out there. Its why it is called a recession. There aren't enough jobs out there that people can feasibly pay off their student loans with.

Re:Everyone has it all wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41487891)

It happens at the later stages too. Even if a student sets out to learn science, they'll still find that investment banks will hire them just because their science education contained a strong mathematical core.

politically incorrect (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488033)

I'm gonna go ahead and say what everyone is thinking but nobody wants to say.

Students don't go into STEM because not everybody is smart enough to actually do well in it. Any asshole can get a Master Bullshit Artist degree and hide their inadequacy for long enough to make some money. If the engineering department is good enough; the MBAs won't even be terrible enough to sink the company!

Re:politically incorrect (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488273)

And of course finding people who are both smart enough to do well in it and dumb enough to pick such a terrible field reduces your potential students even further.

Re:politically incorrect (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488363)

Wait... You're on Slashdot and you're saying STEM fields are terrible?

Re:politically incorrect (1)

CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488351)

So you are implying that U.S. citizens aren't as smart as workers from outside. I don't think you intentionally meant that.

Re:Everyone has it all wrong (2)

Shadow99_1 (86250) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488097)

Or you go into STEM fields and then have trouble continuing employment the older you get unless you move into business anyways... So why not just start there? Requires far less advanced math then most of those STEM courses do as well...

Re:Everyone has it all wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488481)

With a PhD in math you'll be getting paid a ton more than a MBA just out of college if you decide to enter the finance world. Just saying.

Re:Everyone has it all wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488581)

Fully agree with you that engineers should be valued and paid more than business/arts students, but I just want to say that a lot of quant do have PhDs in STEM (a lot of physics, math, some CS, etc). I doubt you'll make it as a quant with a BA.

The problem is just that some fields, like finance, have access to more money. Why? Because we pay them that much, simply because so few people want to understand personal finance and the basics of investing. Stop buying into mutual funds or hedge funds and start investing, and make that industry choke. Start presenting yourself as someone that bring real value, and people will eventually pay for that.

books (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41487821)

Until the books are better priced you will not see anything. And throwing 'more money at the problem' actually makes it worse (as people have more cash and can buy more so prices go up).

By my estimate many of the books out there are costing as much as the class themselves. With very little changed from one revision to the next (usually rearranging the questions and answers). Or better yet using web material lockins for that rare occasion you can buy a used book (costing 50+ bucks just for web access).

This is the number one reason our schools are being crushed by debt. The books themselves. Some districts are facing multi million dollar bonds raisings just to cover the cost of books for the next 5 years.

Re:books (1)

xtal (49134) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488297)

A good teacher shouldn't need a book.

There's lots of old, free books. Why not use those?

Re:books (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488879)

A good teacher

And we are done...

Not all teachers are good. Just like in all industries. Some are so good we dont pay them enough, some are 'ok', some stink. The last 2 groups use books. Some are forced into it thru their school. Some use it because they are lazy. Some use it because they have 5 classes to test and grade and teach (and if you have ever had to go thru 300 students worth of homework you would use the book and pre canned answers).

The crux of the issue is we are spending more and more money on the books and having to crowd out teachers and space for them to teach to pay for it.

Also *STUDENTS* need books. They need something they can lean on to learn from. For example some students will get the information right away. Others need to grind on problems to get the point and a reference to read...

Re:books (3, Informative)

tilante (2547392) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488999)

Books costing as much as the class themselves? I call BS. Your speaking of "that rare occasion you can buy a used book" sounds like college books, so let's see... grabbing the current tuition rate from my alma mater (FSU), using the in-state rate, that gives $212.09 per semester-hour. Most classes are three or four semester hours. Using the lower of those gives $616.27 per student per class. So, at $200 a book, you're looking at each class calling for three books for the books to cost as much as the classes.

You then talk about districts raising money for books, which sounds like public school. So let's look there. First off, most public schools don't buy new books for every class every year. And I haven't seen any one-use web access codes for books for public schools -- I've seen it for college books, but not ones intended for the public school market. So let's see.... Let's say $200 a book, buying books every other year, buying 40 books for a class. That's $4000 for books per year per class.

Now... what are all the other expenses associated with running that class? Well, a big one up front is the teacher. Let's say the teacher makes $35k a year -- that doesn't seem unreasonable. There are also further benefits included with the job, though, so that teacher probably costs the school district at least $50k a year. $50k / $4000 = 12.5. So, unless that teacher is teaching 13 or more classes a year, just the teacher is already costing more than the books. Most districts these days seem to have a seven-period day, with teachers having one free period during the day, so realistically, we can expect that the teacher is teaching six classes. $50k / 6 = $8,333.33... so the teacher is costing a bit more than twice as much as the books. And that's leaving aside all the other expenses involved for each class -- like the cost of building and maintaining the school, amortized over all those classes. The cost of administrative and support personnel, again amortized over the classes. The costs of lab materials, handouts, and other class materials.

If the school buys new books every year, then the cost of books is roughly the same as the cost of the teacher. But I've never known a school to actually do that.

Now, I agree that the books cost too much -- but they're not costing as much as the class. Not even close. Looking around for figures, it looks like textbooks are about 1% of school budgets. But then, how do we get from that to needing multi-million dollar bond raisings?

Well, one problem is that school systems are used to mandating a whole new lineup of books every five or six years, which means the expense hits heavy in one year, then is small for a few years (during which only books that are lost or badly damaged are replaced). Meanwhile, textbook costs have risen roughly 5% a year over the last decade, leading to "sticker shock" as schools see that new books are going to cost about 34% more than they did last time (six years ago). If they've been setting aside money for the last five years, planning on maybe a 10% increase in price in keeping with the past, then they're getting a sudden, unpleasant surprise.

Looking around a bit, I found a detailed school system budget (the Norwalk, Connecticut public schools). It's the first one I found -- I didn't select it specially. In it, the textbook cost is about 0.1% of the budget. I'm going to assume that's normal for a year in which no new books are being introduced. If we accept the Kentucky figure that textbooks are 1% of the overall budget over time, then that implies that in a year of book replacement, new books are 5.9% of the budget. Call it 6% for ease of figuring. If that's what it was in the last cycle, and prices have risen 34%, but budgets haven't increased, then the new cost is 8% of the budget, for a shortfall of 2% of the budget. Looking back at Norwalk's budget again, overall budget is about $200m... so that would be $4m for them. So, yeah... they'd be looking at a multi-million dollar bond raising to cover the cost of books for the next cycle... but books would still only be a tiny portion of their overall budget.

So, cheaper books are needed -- because honestly, $100 for a math textbook is ridiculous. Open-source textbooks may be a solution. Another might be to give school districts more freedom to choose their own books and their own replacement cycles -- as it stands, textbook makers stand to make hundreds of millions by influencing the state committee that chooses textbooks once every six years or so. If they were having to deal with a committee in every school district, it would be harder. And, of course, if book replacements weren't mandated on such a fixed schedule, the expense would be more spread out over time, and there wouldn't be quite such sticker shock. (And also, budget officials would see the increase each year, so they'd have a better idea of how prices are rising.)

Anyway, I've spent way too much time writing this now. Book costs are a problem -- but they're nowhere near costing as much as classes, and they're nowhere near being the number one reason that schools are being crushed by debt. It's a problem that needs to be fixed, but it's one that the school systems have made worse by their own policies.

no general shortage of workers more like (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41487835)

A shortage of people willing to do on call shifts, midnight shifts, weekends, etc... in pressure cooker environments for $11.00 per hour.

Re:no general shortage of workers more like (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488179)

you mean people actually want paid for high pressure and stress jobs?

Another bullshit whine (5, Insightful)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 2 years ago | (#41487843)

because technology companies are running into huge shortages of workers,

No, that is not the issue. The issue is you, the employers, do not want to hire people above a certain age, people who might need a bit of training to get them up to speed or people you will have to pay what their skills are worth.

There are tons of people in the IT field, not just programming, who are either stuck where they're at or unemployed because of your deliberate actions to not hire them. Telling someone to upgrade their skills, which they do at their own expense, then be told, "Well, it's not EXACTLY what we're looking for", then whining you can't find anyone is the direct result of your actions.

You cannot expect every person you hire to have the EXACT experience you want, especially when you refuse to provide training. If all you want are experienced people but don't train anyone, then eventually you will run short/out of experienced people because no one was trained to replace them.

Start hiring people who are close to what you need, regardless of age, train them in the way YOU want them to be, and you your supposed shortage will magically disappear.

Re:Another bullshit whine (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488115)

As someone who is having trouble hiring people in IT in my home area where there are rumors the unemployment rate is 2% or less for IT, I can promise you we're not having a problem because we're not looking for wide enough.

What the real problem for me happens to be that people aren't willing to learn once they come on board. They want to pretend they're experts in their field and know everything there is to know and how dare I insult their intelligence with a technical interview which shows me (and them) how narrow their knowledgebase really happens to be.

While I disagree with STEM as a concept in education, there are those who believe it is really a worthwhile venture because it shifts how education is done. I argue that if the STEM model is that great, it should be rolled out to ALL K-12 and not simply those who win the lottery and get into a STEM-focused institution. But that's besides the point here.

What we really need to focus on is teaching children that they can always learn and should seek it out. Egotistical coders are nothing new and will not likely change, but if we could capture at least some people and change their attitude, we could really have a thriving group of individuals who are all about bettering themselves continually. This may eventually spread to employers who are willing to train, develop, and lead people in new directions to create a better overall product instead of hiring what they believe are the best of the best who just happen to be very good at feeling they can accurately assess someone's abilities in a few interviews.

Re:Another bullshit whine (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488121)

Another issue is that the US gov't spends more on debt interest than on education. [] There's a math joke in there somewhere.

Re:Another bullshit whine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488731)

And yet they managed to put a man on the moon 10 years before the Department of Education even existed.

Re:Another bullshit whine (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488829)

Which, in part, led to the massive arms race and excessive military spending and huge debt we have today.

Maybe they should have created the Dept of Education a few years earlier...

Cost of business in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41487903)

So the solution is to make it MORE expensive to do business in the US?

If they don't let you bring the staff here, just open an office or send the work contract there.
At least if they immigrate, even temporarily, they might decide they like it here more.

Or we can just limit the available staff here, cause salary bidding wars, and price ourselves out of the market.

Straw Poll (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#41487905)

Slashdot seems to have its fair share of the sort of 'high skill STEM/IT/Tech' types that Mr. William H. Gates III is referring to a shortage of, so, I ask:

Is this a 'shortage' as in "Yup, damn headhunters won't stop calling and I'm turning down fairly attractive offers just for not being very attractive on a routine basis." or a 'shortage' as in "Cry, cry, we want CCNAs with a decade of experience to be begging when we offer them 30k/yr!"?

Re:Straw Poll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488019)

The latter, and it's always been the latter.

Re:Straw Poll (1)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488187)

I'd definitely say the first one. I get a new call from a headhunter at least every week. My female coworkers get them practically daily. And none of us are anything that special - ~5 years of dev experience in java/C++/web stuff.

The thing is, most "qualified" programmers suck. When I was in college I would trust maybe 1/4 of the people in the class to work with me on a group project. Programming is hard, and good software engineering (which is a separate problem) is even harder.

Combine that with the fact that almost no one who is competent *wants* to write your boring as hell enterprise web application (they'd rather go work for some neat startup doing the latest and greatest in social networking, or work for a bank who can pay them a bigger salary), and hiring can get really annoying. Because you can't just hire *somebody* or you'll lose productivity babysitting them the entire time.

Re:Straw Poll (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488263)

Mostly the latter but some of the former. I regularly get job offers (about 3 a month) of some head hunter of company looking to for someone with my specialized skill set. I frequently turn them down because they often are for 30-40k/yr while I currently make over twice that. I have had some real offers from companies my company does work for that would have been a pay increase, but I would have to move to a more expensive area (D.C.) that would eat up the raise and then some.

Re:Straw Poll (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488377)

Posting as AC for obvious reasons.

I work for Microsoft as an SDE (currently Level 60, or SDE 1). I got hired on straight out of college two years ago and some change. I have only a BS in electrical engineering. I turned down an offer from Google at the same time (the starting salary was the same, but they wanted me to move to California). After one promotion-based pay raise, one pay-raise last year across all of MS R&D, and one normal yearly pay-raise, I make $104k base salary at one of MS's satellite offices, and I'm 24. I am contacted by a headhunter about every one to two months. The offers are so-so, but all the ones that would pay me anywhere near a comparable salary to MS want me to move somewhere crappy.

I work with quite a number of people here on foreign-hire programs, but I don't really know which programs (I hear some are more controversial than others). They are competent engineers and most have a higher level than I do (SDE 2 or Senior SDE), mostly because they have a higher education level and have been here longer. I can only assume that means they get paid more, but I don't know that for sure (and just in case they don't, I won't ask).

Very bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41487913)

There're few STEM graduates because math is more difficult than history, not because there aren't enough investments in education. No matter how much money you spend, the average IQ of young americans won't change.

And increasing the fees on H-1B and/or green card visas will only make it more expensive for US companies to find the skills they need and - even worse - they will offer immigrants lower salaries to compensate for that.

Business plan: We need to try something different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41487959)

If government will actually act because "we need to try something different" than the tea party is right.

Then pay taxes, MS (3, Interesting)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 2 years ago | (#41487977)

If MS wants the U.S. to educate its workers, then perhaps MS needs to stop looking for ways to pay U.S. taxes [] .

Oh, that's right. MS just wants the other U.S. taxpayers to increase MS's profits. I forgot.

Re:Then pay taxes, MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488251)

Nobody likes a poor thief.

Not rocket science (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488395)

That IS the entire premise of government: to force other people to pay for the things that you want, and to force other people to behave in the way that you approve of. All the crap about "working together" is just a smokescreen for the real objective. Nobody wants to "work together" -- they want a bigger piece of the pie for themselves, and a smaller piece for everybody else.

Put your money where your mouth is (1)

Meniconi,Nando (666243) | more than 2 years ago | (#41487989)

Apple should start paying its fair share of taxes, and maybe we'll have $5B to invest in education (education not.equal job training)

The last time (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488007)

someone tried this, pumping two billion into "education", it all went and got spent on administration buildings, swimming pools, whatever else they could think of... except education. The entire state's SAT averages plummeted and they haven't been back up since.

Besides, it's all too easy calling for officials to spend other people's money to train more cheap, young people for positions nobody in their right mind would want themselves. If you're that all-fired for spending money, spend your own.

Oh, isn't that "economic"? Glad we cleared that up then.

Easy way to get more STEM workers (2)

Dareth (47614) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488015)

Go hire and train this years graduates! That is all it will take to prime the pump and keep the student/worker training going.

I know of way too many people with STEM degrees who work outside their field because they could never get the "entry level" experience in the field.

Same ol' new and different (3, Interesting)

MrRobahtsu (8620) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488017)

'We need to do something new,' he said. 'We need to try something different.'

Since education spending has tripled or quadrupled (depending on who you ask) over the past 30 years, and and educational outcomes have been virtually unchanged, yeah, dumping more money into a crumbling educational bureaucracy is really new and different. That'll probably work.

Until we do something about this, more money is not going to help any more than it already has:
graph []

bankrupted statement (5, Interesting)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488021)

"technology companies are running into huge shortages of workers"

I've heard this shortage of workers again and again so much it is a bankrupted statement. I've heard back in 1980s about shortage of engineers, only to have engineers laid off in early 1990s. then again shortage of engineers in 1990s, only to have layoffs in early 2000s.

Perhaps there is a shortage of people with good skill mix of hardware and software skills. But from what I see, this has been discouraged. Going into engineering is fine with most people as long as you transition into management two or three years later, otherwise you are perceived as a loser. If you are not a millionaire by the time you are 30, you are perceived as a loser. Many engineers got interests in taking apart stuff (usually not much luck putting them back together) when they were children. Or the youngster hacking into computers or do phone phreaking (now regarded as terrorist activities). And young people experiment with chemistry kits (you old timers from 20th century remember they use to have these available). Many hands-on shop classes have been eliminated. Plus anything techie that is being built is done outside USA (i.e. iPhone, and I'm not sure if you can hack this thing either). Then having do all this plus considerable time with tech courses to what, getting employed in a diminishing industry? Of course if you are a super star then you will always have it great. But if it is like you either have to be really good or you will be scraping by (no in between i.e. middle class), then most people are going to do something else.

That's my Gripe Of The Month.

Re:bankrupted statement (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488219)

A couple of relevant economic definitions for you:

shortage: (n) A situation where the price of what you want to buy is going up.
surplus: (n) A situation where the price of what you want to buy is going down.

Since employers are buying engineering labor, they want surpluses, not shortages. Since a lot of /.ers are the labor that they're buying, we should want a shortage, not a surplus.

Re:bankrupted statement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488285)

Yes, yes and yes. There is no shortage of tech workers. Heck they been pulling secretaries and file clerks over to do tech work for decades, since any trained monkey can do most of it. Or so management thinks. Need real answers? Call in the consultants! They bring in quiet asians and respectful Indian's and one loud white guy to cover the fact it is really a training project and right about the time they realize it is a scam, suddenly the project is over, and it gets turned over to the in house crew to finish.
Now those trained guys can take their new skills and sign in to work on an h1B and keep the labor cost low, and after 5 years they get an approved immigration visa and are happy to take our 50k a year lower middle class jobs, keeping those from our kids, friends and neighbors, and making it hard to get a job without experience.
Why higher a college grad when Jehnji or Chu has 7 years fresh tech and will do it for 50k instead of the 75k you had top pay the last guy? Plus they are dedicated, they didn't have 5 jobs on their resume, just the one (you leave the H1B company, you go back to your homeland)
Never mind that their university degree is fake, or equivalent to a 2 year CC over here. It is just as good.
They don't speak English, much, but that is OK, they can speak to the other new hires.
Our kids learn that chemistry means you can cook meth., math is not needed at McDonald's, and geeks don't get the girls, so they have to play 4 sports in HS.
Hard to aspire to be a lame talking head on faux news. Maybe they will be famous on youTube for 10 secs, if they can only think of something cool.

smell funny? (1)

NikeHerc (694644) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488071)

OP: The U.S. needs to push more resources into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education because technology companies are running into huge shortages of workers, said Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel and executive vice president.

Is it just me or, with 23 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, does this smell really funny?

Re:smell funny? (2)

gewalker (57809) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488419)

Considering we spend about 900 billion per year on education, more than any other industrialized country -- both in total and per capita maybe spending an extra 0.5 billion per year is just pissing in the ocean. We have doubled per capita inflation adjusted dollars since 1980 -- somehow spending an additional 0.01% is not likely to be a game changer.

Corporate irresponsibility... (5, Insightful)

sinij (911942) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488105)

There is absolutely no shortage of qualified workers. There is shortage of corporate responsibility.

With corporations already shed responsibility for retirement and education they are now trying to shed responsibility for on-job job-specific training.

As a veteran of a tech sector, I had to escape into consulting/regulation side exactly because of this phenomena.
You are expected to upgrade/maintain your qualifications without any kind of time/money allowance from the employer, but then most corporations would not promote from within, so you are stuck at the same wage level. Then when you finally leave to get your promotion they expect to hire someone with exact qualifications you had, never mind the fact that you left because they didn't pay you enough.

Culture of promoting from within and investing in on-job training has to come back. You can't expect to perpetually suppress wages, not invest into your workers and have people willing to do it. Eventually people figure out this is bad field to work in and jump the ship.

STFU! and put your money where your mouth is (2)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488149)

one of the richest most greediest companies in the world telling one of the most corrupt government's in the world where to spend money, this is laughable. it is going to take a lot to overhaul the education system, and a lot more than throwing money at it, it is going to take a fundamental change in the people that run the educational system, plus the children getting educated need a better frame of mind,

Ah, the cries for cheap labour. (2)

xtal (49134) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488151)

One of the great democratizing things that's happened with the rise of App Stores, free tools, computers so cheap they're effectively free, open access to information.. and access to virtual manufacturing tools - is that now you can start a company with little capital from just about anywhere.

Keep whining. Soon you won't be needed, and the technically minded can connect directly with those who want the goods and services produced by their skills.

Much like Napster and iTunes fortold the end of the multi-million dollar record deals, but enabled a whole generation of new musicians to make a decent living, access to cheap tools, social networking connections, kickstarter type operations, and virtual machine and manufacturing shops will be the end to the Bill Gates empires of the world.

Or maybe not, but I like to think the free market, like nature abhors a vacuum and while slow, will respond in kind.

I might be a little older now, but I'm not jaded yet.

An unfortunate name (0)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488197)

STEM = stem cell = OMG murdering unborns

Or that could occur to the casual uninformed observer, anyway. Eg giving a nuclear buildout a name that can be pronounced "Whoops." What's wrong with the "3 Rs?" Too out-of-date I suppose.

Re:An unfortunate name (1)

neo-mkrey (948389) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488609)

It's never been the three Rs, it's always been R, W and A, and it's always bugged me that people refer to it as the three Rs.

Re:An unfortunate name (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488621)

Well, they tried reversing the acronym, but then no one cared [] ...

They've gamed the market so long... (5, Informative)

swb (14022) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488201)

...they've forgotten how it actually works.

If you can't find people to hire, you're not offering enough money. If designing widgets or software had an advantageous salary (relative to marketing or finance), people would go into this field.

If you have decent people but they need to work with a new technology, train them. Even if they just have potential or are pretty green, train them. I can't remember when this changed, but at some point companies just stopped training and decided that they would only hire pre-trained people or worse yet, support a gladiatorial culture where workers are expected to train themselves or get replaced with 20 year olds who "already know it".

You have to change the sclerotic culture of business so that it's not a class of financial engineers and marketers who are treated as an aristocracy while engineers and more general labor are treated as plebs. I had a telling conversation with my wife, a senior marketing executive, about this. She basically came out and said that engineers were only worth so much money, period, and if they couldn't be had for that figure then they needed to be imported. But sales and marketing executives have no such cap, and they need to be paid whatever it takes to hire the right person. And she works for a company where there would be no product without engineers!!

Re:They've gamed the market so long... (1, Informative)

bratmobile (550334) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488611)

I have interviewed over a hundred people in the last few years. And let me tell you, the issue is the quality, not the price. We have *plenty* of money to offer, and we do offer it. But most of the candidates I interview simply do not meet the requirements on intelligence, skills, and problem-solving abilities.

Re:They've gamed the market so long... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488805)

the issue is the quality, not the price

It's probably your company. Walmart complains about not having enough quality applicants but no one wants to work there unless they have too.

Engineered Ignorance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488265)

The education system was De-funded after the Civil Rights/War protest of the 1960's - 1970's.
Texas Republicans are pushing an Education bill that espouses rote memorization over Critical Thinking skills.

Smart enough to operate the machines, and fill out the paperwork.

Captialism only works for CEOs (4, Insightful)

grep_rocks (1182831) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488279)

Why do all these so-called capitalists suddenly forget the laws of supply and demand when it comes to workers - if you _pay_ them more the supply will increase - remember the nursing shortage? the problem was none of the hopsitals wanted to pay the nurses what the market called for - these assholes just want an oversuplly of cheap, skilled labor - I hate these fuckers.

technology / IT needs a trades / tech school based (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488283)

technology / IT needs a trades / tech school based Education.

That can cut out some of the college filler and fluff as well making the Education more hands on with less theory.

Be more open to working with people who don't have the time for a college time table.

Be quicker and cheap then college is today.

Work in to a continuing education plan better then college.

I haven't had a head hunter call me since Y2K. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488331)

Yes, I have tons on experience and advanced degrees in STM. It is a buch of bull Mr MS. I'm not even picky about pay. I just want to get paid to do what I do and enjoy and went to school for. It's not complicated. But Australia is starting to look good.

Mr Engr in the US

It Depends on where you are. (1)

jimwelch (309748) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488459)

Here in Oklahoma, we are desperately looking for programmers, engineers, and believe it or not: welders. Three local companies have Billboards up looking for welders, who are paid more than engineers!

Money != Good Education (2)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488529)

History and trends apparently haven't driven this point home.

If what gives a great education is money, Camden, NJ (the poorest city in America) should have the most awesome education available since the amount of federal and state aid it gets per pupil is truly staggering.

Does money help? Sure. But it can't make up for parents who don't care, broken homes, etc.

If throwing money at education would solve the problem, it would be solved by now.

New Approach (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488575)

Has anyone thought about asking the kids what they want to learn? The most ineffective way of teaching is forced teaching, you can throw a million dollars of technology at a student but if they don't enjoy using it then it's a waste. I think we should segment the school system, take the kids who want a technical based education and put them in one stream with a lesser degree of emphasis placed on English and all the like courses and then just Vice Versa. Oh course this would start in grade 7 when kids are smart enough and old enough to make that decision for themselves.

I see no point in doing this STEM method to every student, it's a waste of money and effort. It should be applied to the kids who want it and then left at that.

I have an idea (3, Interesting)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488663)

'We need to do something new,' he said. 'We need to try something different.'

How about pay STEM people reasonable wages and offer reasonable benefits. I am sick of getting offers in the $30-$40k range to jump from my current position that currently pays over double that. I do get real offers now and then but probably 80% are the joke ones where they want people with 5 to 10+ years experience in a laundry list of not widely used technologies, want a minimum of a BS with a MS or PhD preferred, and expect you to start at $30k a year with 2 weeks vacation. I got a call from a recruiter the other day who thought I might be interested in some positions that ended up I laughing at because the offerings were absurd. She was shocked at the amount of money it would take to get me to change my job, even though it was only about a 10% increase over what I currently make. I have gotten offers for almost twice what I make but would have to move to places I don't want to live that cost over twice what it costs where I currently live so it would have been a net loss for me.

Throw money at the problem! (1)

jimmy_dean (463322) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488769)

Sure, let's throw more money at the problem. Money solves all issues! We don't need brains, or make wise decisions. Just throw more money at it! How's that education working out for the Microsoft people lobbying Congress to do this? Not so well I see.

US Education Spending In A Graph (2)

AntiBasic (83586) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488861)

We're spending 300% more than we were in 1970, yet, scores aren't going up.

H1-B MS Salary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488919)

I always got the impression that full time Indian employees made less money than American counterparts. That seems to be the feeling here too and is at the heart of the H1-B dissent. Does anyone know the typical entry salary for a foreign worker at MS, or the difference between them and Americans? I've never seen anyone present actual data that it is different.

and 4.8B being spent on MicroSoft Software (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488935)

wanna bet that if this money does start flowing that Microsoft will do everything it can to grab as much of it as possible??

(spend 48K on "dinners" get 4.8B in business)

(oh and to the folks trying to get a degree DREAMSPARK ---- best way to get MS stuff without paying for it LEGALLY

This is why monopolies are bad (2)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | more than 2 years ago | (#41488945)

They get things like this passed because they have an asswad of liquid assets to lobby with. It won't surprise me when this goes through.

if they were serious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41488981)

they'd give out 5 billion in free liscenes to students each year
oh wait then they would not have ANY sales

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