The Leaflet: Back to School on Higher Ed Reform

Published September 25, 2014

Back to School on Higher Ed Reform

Education issues always get a boost in media coverage when the new school year begins. But that boost is intensified even more when it’s also an election year. With student loans and college affordability a top concern for young voters, state legislators made 2014 an active year for higher-education reform.

State governments already provide most of the aid to institutions, and several states “increased appropriations” to institutions of higher learning this year, according to the National Conference for State Legislatures. In The Heartland Institute’s Ten Principles of Higher Education Reform, Ohio University economist Richard Vedder and analyst Matthew Denhart say higher-education institutions need less funding, not more.

They wrote, “Ending government subsidies to higher education and removing tax breaks for third-party subsidization would more directly align the costs of higher education to the benefits of those who attend.”

Those who argue that education is a “public good” worthy of state subsidies should note empirical evidence fails to prove that’s the case. The claim that third-party payments have led to more equal opportunity for higher education also lacks evidence.

U.S. higher education is still relatively a free market. States should therefore resist distorting these mechanisms by increasing subsidies. They should instead seek to phase them out. If college is such a good investment, as subsidy proponents claim, why is it a problem if students pay for it themselves?

Health Care
Why You Won’t Even Be Able to Keep Your Obamacare Plan if You Like It

Obamacare healthcare plans may be no safer for taxpayers than the plans cancelled to implement the new exchange plans. In this Heartlander article, Sean Parnell recommends a video by Robert Graboyes, senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, which explains how the actuarial value requirements of Obamacare will force current plans to be cancelled as well.

“Most of us are familiar with the fiasco centered around President Obama’s false pledge that ‘if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.'” I hadn’t realized that this broken promise didn’t affect just to old plans that were cancelled, but will also impact plans that are currently available on the Obamacare exchanges as well.” Read more

Energy & Environment
Research & Commentary: The Clean Water Act
The stated goals of the Clean Water Act (CWA) are to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters” and make “all waters … fishable and swimmable where possible.” Although the CWA has contributed to improved water quality, so have technological progress and economic growth. However, Policy Analyst Taylor Smith says the CWA contains confusing jurisprudence that has “allowed EPA to get away with very expansive interpretations, leading to some of its most notorious cases of property rights abuse.” Read more

Research & Commentary: Common Core English Language Arts Standards
The English language standards play a vital role in directing the content all K–12 students will study, and will thus have a major impact on how students learn language skills, vocabulary, and knowledge of the human condition. Policy Analyst Taylor Smith says, “under Common Core ELA, students are more likely to study less-challenging literature because the guidelines are vague regarding the specific texts teachers should instruct.” Read more

Budget & Tax
Research & Commentary: Mississippi Franchise Tax Repeal
Mississippi is one of 18 states with a franchise tax; a new reform proposal being floated in Mississippi could eliminate the state’s franchise tax, which is levied on businesses and partnerships chartered within the state. In this Research & Commentary, Matthew Glans examines the proposed repeal of the state’s franchise tax and argues that franchise taxes became unreliable sources of revenue  as corporate revenues decreased considerably in recent years. Eliminating the corporate franchise tax could dramatically improve Mississippi’s business climate and make it more competitive with its neighbors; the state currently ranks 17th on Tax Foundation’s Business Tax Climate Index.” Read more

Research & Commentary: Chattanooga Municipal Broadband Expansion
The electric utility company running Chattanooga, Tennessee’s municipal broadband recently filed a petition to override a state law that prevents it from offering broadband data and video services to residents and businesses outside its electricity service area. In this Commentary, Matthew Glans argues that keeping government-funded broadband providers out of the market while promoting competitive tax rates and business regulations helps create a vibrant market that encourages telecom companies to expand their services. The FCC should leave control over the creation of municipal broadband programs to the states. Read more


From Our Free-Market Friends
Public Attitudes toward Federalism: The Public’s Preference for Renewed Federalism
Public support for federalism is on the rise. In this new study from Cato scholars John Samples and Emily McClintock Ekins, the authors found that public opinion about federalism has changed and that voters are more supportive of “decentralized policymaking on many issues where they previously supported a stronger national role.” Read more




The September issue of Budget & Tax News reports on U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin‘s efforts to punish companies that engage in “inversions,” in which companies reincorporate in foreign countries with lower corporate income taxes and a territorial tax system instead of the worldwide tax system imposed by the United States. “It’s so irresponsible, Durbin’s position,” said Chris Edwards, director of tax policy at the Cato Institute. “We have a horrible corporate tax code … and he complains when corporations properly try to escape it.”

School Reform News



Environment & Climate News