Across the country, children, parents, teachers, and activists are donning yellow fleece scarves—and even busting some dance moves—in celebration of National School Choice Week (NSCW).
Held every January since 2011, NSCW has grown exponentially, becoming the most recognized education awareness movement in the world. In 2017, 21,392 events were organized for NSCW. This year, it is estimated 32,240 events will be held involving 6.7 million participants. Additionally, 30 governors and 684 mayors and county leaders issued proclamations recognizing January 21–27, 2018, as National School Choice Week. Another famous school choice advocate, President Donald Trump, also announced his support for NSCW via a presidential proclamation published on Monday.
Andrew Campanella, president of NSCW, spoke to Watchdog News about the mission of his nonpartisan, non-political organization. “National School Choice Week is designed to raise awareness among parents about all the different education options they have for their kids,” Campanella said. “We want parents to know when it comes to their children’s education, they do have choices and they can look into traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies and home schooling …”
The Heartland Institute is a long-time advocate of school choice. In Heartland’s newest edition of Ten State Solutions to Emerging Issues, expanding private education choice is one of the solutions recommended for lawmakers to adopt in their state legislatures. U.S. school children consistently lag behind their counterparts in foreign countries when it comes to educational performance, and funding increases in per-pupil spending for public education have not alleviated this discrepancy. Education choice, not more money, has repeatedly proven to be a successful method for boosting the quality of K–12 education. And it’s also incredibly popular with the American people.
A comprehensive 2016 EdChoice report concluded the overwhelming empirical research on private education choice programs demonstrates they improve academic outcomes for participants and public schools, save taxpayer money, and help improve classroom diversity. Only empirical studies that employed a random assignment “gold standard” research method were considered in the report’s analysis. Of the 100 studies cited, 87 found school choice had a positive impact and just 10 found no visible effect.
A new American Federation for Children survey of likely 2018 November voters found general support for school choice remains strong, at about 63 percent. This number increases to 72 percent and 66 percent for Latinos and African-Americans, respectively. Education savings accounts (ESAs) and tax-credit scholarships (TCS), which give parents a greater ability to customize their children’s education environment, poll exceptionally well, with 75 percent support and 65 percent support, respectively.
There are currently a total of 28 ESA and TCS programs, located in 21 states. State legislators should consider adopting legislation that will create or expand far-reaching ESA and TCS programs, including ones modeled after those in Arizona, Florida, and Nevada.
Heartland Policy Analyst Tim Benson concludes in his Policy Brief “Education Savings Accounts: The Future of School Choice Has Arrived,” “The overwhelming majority of the available empirical evidence makes it clear educational choice offers families improved access to high-quality schools that meet their widely diverse needs and desires, and it does so at a lower cost while benefitting public school students and taxpayers. … The goal of public education today and in the years to come should be to allow all parents to choose which schools their children attend, require every school to compete for every student who walks through its doors, and make sure every child has the opportunity to attend a quality school.”
What We’re Working On
Budget & Tax
New Virginia Bill Would End Taxpayer Funding for Pro Sports Facilities
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines a proposal in Virginia that would prohibit the use of taxpayer money by professional sports teams to fund a new stadium. “The proposal in Virginia is a strong rebuke of corporate welfare and could provide a model for other states to follow. Cities and states seeking to improve their economic competitiveness shouldn’t rely on professional sports teams. Instead, they should reduce their taxes and/or invest in more cost-effective improvements, such as new and improved infrastructure,” wrote Glans.
CMS Approves Kentucky’s Waiver, Other States Should Follow Suit
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines the Medicaid waiver recently approved for Kentucky and argues it could be a model for other states to follow as they reform their own Medicaid programs. “State lawmakers currently waiting for the federal government to approve health care reforms should instead apply for waivers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to allow for more control over Medicaid programs. And Kentucky’s waiver should serve as a model – one that should be expanded on – for other states interested in implementing reforms but unsure of what will be approved by CMS,” wrote Glans.
Limited Tax-Credit Scholarship Program Would Be a Good First Step for Nebraska
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson writes about a proposed tax-credit scholarship program in Nebraska that would be open to children from families whose household incomes are less than 200 percent of the level necessary to qualify for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program. The total cap on donations would be $2 million for 2019, when the program would take effect. However, the state Department of Revenue can increase this cap by 20 percent annually if donations exceed 95 percent of the capped limit, up to $10 million.
Energy & Environment
States Should Encourage EPA to Review the Endangerment Finding
In this Research & Commentary, Heartland Research Fellow Bette Grande and Policy Analyst Tim Benson write about a flawed 2009 finding by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). EPA determined, claiming authority under the Clean Air Act, carbon-dioxide emissions threaten public health and welfare—a decision commonly referred to as the “endangerment finding.” This policy gave the Obama administration a green light to pursue an aggressive agenda to curtail greenhouse-gas emitted from power plants, industrial facilities, and automobiles. The culmination of this agenda was the Clean Power Plan, which planned to cut carbon-dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 32 percent by 2030. Grande and Benson argue states opposed to overzealous regulations passed under the guise of climate change should consider resolutions urging EPA to reopen and review the endangerment finding.
From Our Free-Market Friends
Financial State of the Cities
Truth in Accounting (TIA) recently released its third annual Financial State of the Cities report, which analyzes municipal financial information of the 75 most populous cities in the country. Here are some of the highlights of the report: Sixty-four of 75 cities do not have enough money to pay outstanding debts; total unfunded debt for all cities equals $335.4 billion; only 11 cities had a taxpayer surplus; no city received an “A” grade. Interestingly, TIA was unable to rank the New Jersey cities of Newark and Jersey City because those governments do not use “generally accepted accounting principles” in their financial reports.
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