Yesterday, at the Republican National Convention, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice gave a superb speech covering many important issues. One issue she touched on that regrettably hasn’t been talked about enough this campaign season is education reform. For the United States to have sustained economic prosperity into the future, transformational free-market education reform is an essential.
In her powerful speech, Secretary Rice said, “The crisis in K-12 education is a threat to the very fabric of who we are. My mom was a teacher. I respect the profession. We need great teachers, not poor ones and not mediocre ones. We have to have high standards for our kids, because self-esteem comes from achievement, not from lax standards and false praise. And we need to give parents greater choice, particularly poor parents whose kids, very often minorities, are trapped in failing neighborhood schools. This is the civil rights issue of our day. If we do anything less, we will condemn generations to joblessness and hopelessness and dependence on the government dole. To do anything less is to endanger our global economic competitiveness. To do anythi ng less is to tear apart the fabric of who we are and cement a turn toward grievance and entitlement.”
Just last week Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast testified before the Texas Senate Committee on Education in the state Capitol in Austin on the Taxpayers Savings Grant, a revolutionary school reform proposal. In his testimony he said that, “Taxpayers would save approximately $2 billion in the first biennium following passag e of the law.” He added that, “Students would benefit, as other school choice programs around the country have demonstrated how choice improves student achievement, retention, and other outcomes. Parents and teachers will be happier.”
The Center for Transforming Education at The Heartland Institute is devoted to research and effective advocacy to radically improve K-12 schools in the United States. To find out more about the emerging issues in education reform please check out School Reform News online or contact our team of policy experts at [email protected].
This week’s edition of The Leaflet features research and commentary addressing Texas taxpayer’s savings grants, pension rate of returns, 95% broadband success, exchanges, carbon taxes, transaction taxes, and school discipline.
AUSTIN, TEXAS—Taxpayer Savings Grants would save Texas taxpayers $2 billion in the program’s first two years and give families unprecedented school choice, Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute, testified Friday before the Texas Senate Committee on Education.
Bast was one of several testifying on school choice, including variations on vouchers, education tax credits, and lifting the state’s cap of 215 charter schools, as methods to improve education while preventing further deficits caused by education spending.
“Texas’s lieutenant governor says he really likes [taxpayer savings grants], and Gov. [Rick] Perry’s people say that he really likes it,” Bast said. “This would be the first non-means-tested statewide voucher-in-effect program.”
TSG is a Texas bill that would allow parents to transfer their child from a public school to a private school, using a grant to help pay tuition. The state would reimburse parents for the cost of tuition or 60 percent of the state average per-pupil expenditure—approximately $5,200, on average—whichever is less.
Taxpayers would save an average $3,429 for each grant, leaving more money to spend on students who remain in government schools. Bast has calculated that approximately 6.6 percent of public school students’ families would choose a TSG in its first year, or as many as 300,000 students.
In 2011, Texas legislators cut $4 billion from education to stem a massive deficit and expect another this year. Texas currently spends approximately $45 billion each year on K-12 education.
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What We’re Working On
Finance, Insurance and Real Estate
In states and municipalities across the country, the high cost of traditional defined-benefit public pensions has become a hot-button issue as unfunded liabilities have raced out of control. These increasing liabilities are further complicated by the fact that in many instances the regulators controlling pension funds have overestimated the value of future investments and the rate of return they can expect from the investments held by the pension fund.
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines the problems facing state and local pension funds, how assumed rates of return affect pension fund debt and the proposals to change the projected rates of return on investment. The Commentary was sent to legislators in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington.
In this Heartlander article, Larry Downes discusses the Federal Communications Commission’s conclusions on broadband implementation in its eighth annual “Broadband Progress Report.” Despite new statistics finding that 95% of all Americans had access to broadband Internet from cable, DSL, fiber or other wired services, the FCC argued that broadband deployment is not happening fast enough. Downes argues that this reaction is absurd and will only lead to more regulations to fix a non-problem.
In this Policy Tip Sheet, Kendall Antekeier outlines why implementation of a health insurance exchange, even after the Supreme Court decision, is still not an ideal reform for states. “Implementing an exchange will result in high administrative and operational costs, and those costs will rise soon after initial implementation,” she writes. “Federal funding for exchanges is expected to run out by 2014, making state spending increases inevitable. As the federal government continues to take control over health care from the states while cutting funding, state officials should resist setting up health insurance exchanges.”
In an op-ed for The Washington Times, Heartland Policy Analyst Taylor Smith takes a close look at carbon taxes, and whether implementing them can actually help the economy if other taxes are lowered with their implementation. Proponents say swapping the tax will make it revenue-neutral, and since a carbon tax has less disincentivizing effects than the personal income tax, will actually grow the economy as it lowers carbon emissions. But Taylor argues that even if it lowers carbon emissions, it won’t be enough to prevent any significant warming. Nor will it grow the economy; it will instead harm it.
Taylor explains, “Swapping revenue from the progressive income tax for revenue from a carbon tax means millions of families won’t receive the tax savings needed to absorb the higher energy costs and increased prices for goods and services.”
Budget & Tax
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines the proposed financial transaction tax and its possible effects on investments and the U.S. economy. Since the 2007-2008 financial crises, legislators in the United States and across the world have proposed new taxes on certain financial transactions, including securities trading and stock transactions. For proponents of these financial transaction taxes the goal is twofold: to raise revenue for the national governments through the new tax and to slow down the short-term speculative trading they believe causes unnecessary market volatility.
In this Research & Commentary, Research Fellow Joy Pullman discusses President Obama’s executive order creating two federal panels to review public schools’ discipline policies and actions toward African-Americans. This is in response to media claims that institutional racism is taking place, based on data showing schools suspend black students more often than white students. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan say race-based policies such as quotas, affirmative action, and further wealth redistribution from white families to black families are necessary to begin fixing this imbalance.
Joy says, “It is unfair and indeed racist to punish children according to race-based discipline quotas rather than their actual behavior.”
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The August issue of FIRE Policy News reports financial institutions that do proprietary trading are coming under fire for high-profile losses that critics say could put taxpayers at risk. Implementation of the Dodd-Frank measure’s “Volcker Rule,” scheduled to take effect in July, has been delayed. The Heritage Foundation’s David John notes, “If fully implemented, the Volcker Rule is … likely to backfire and to end up making the financial system riskier than it would have been without it.”