Last week, the Chicago Tribune unveiled widespread child abuse in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Reporters obtained Chicago Police Department (CPD) data and found 523 cases of child assault occurred within CPS from 2008 to 2017.
The hundreds of child abuse cases were not just student-on-student attacks, which unfortunately are all too common in CPS, but also illegal and alarming interactions between school employees and students. Far too many CPS employees, who are supposed to be trusted authority figures, used their status to inflict physical and psychological pain on vulnerable students.
Even more disturbing, school officials who were allegedly notified of potential abuse failed to take procedures to protect the student victims. The Tribune uncovered numerous teachers and principals who failed to report these cases to authorities, despite a state law that mandates they contact law enforcement immediately.
The tragic reports of rampant child abuse in CPS came soon after the Tennessean exposed similar wrongdoing in the Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS). Shockingly, more than 600 cases of suspected child abuse in MNPS occurred during the 2017–18 school year. A lawsuit against MNPS documents more than 3,400 cases of inappropriate sexual behavior that resulted in disciplinary actions during a recent five-year period.
Although the Nashville and Chicago school districts have pledged to change their abuse reporting policy in the wake of these scandals, this still leaves many students in dangerous environments. Thankfully, The Heartland Institute has recently proposed Child Safety Accounts (CSAs) as a viable solution for school violence victims.
CSAs would allow bullied or abused students to transfer to a safer school. (The full brief on CSAs is available here.) Parents who fear for the physical or emotional well-being of their children could use the state funds in their CSA to pay for tuition at other public, private, or virtual schools. The funds could also be used for homeschooling expenses, tutoring, and educational therapies.
Limited financial means and administrative inaction should never sentence children to more than a decade of being victimized in an unsafe school. CSAs would ensure that all students have the opportunity to avoid bullying and abuse, allowing them to focus in a safe learning environment.
What We’re Working On
PROSPER Act Would Revolutionize Higher Education
This Research & Commentary by Policy Analyst Tim Benson and Policy Advisor Jane S. Shaw examines the PROSPER Act, a major reform of federal higher education. The PROSPER Act aims to innovate higher education by increasing access and degree completion. The act would also simplify the student aid process and reduce the government’s role in the student lending industry. The authors contend the PROSPER Act would help move higher education in the right direction, adding much-needed accountability and transparency as well as better preparing students for their careers.
Energy & Environment
Fracking Is Not Adversely Affecting Air Quality in Colorado
This Research & Commentary by Tim Benson considers an air quality assessment released in March 2018 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). The report found that a new oil and natural gas development near Battlement Mesa in Garfield County is a “low risk” for “long-term harmful health effects due to [volatile organic compound] exposure.” This study reinforces a February 2017 CDPHE assessment based on more than 10,000 air samples across Colorado, which concluded “all measured air concentrations … were below short- and long-term ‘safe’ levels of exposure for non-cancer health effects, even for sensitive populations.”
How to Cure Pennsylvania’s Health Benefits Crisis
In this Heartland Policy Brief, State Government Relations Manager Charlie Katebi argues taxpayer spending on health care for Pennsylvania state employees has skyrocketed as a result of wasteful incentives and a lack of price transparency in the state’s health care system. “Patient-centered reforms can stop this unsustainable spending trajectory while ensuring workers continue to enjoy reliable access to quality medical professionals and facilities. Other states offer lessons instructing Pennsylvania how it can successfully transform public employees from passive beneficiaries into engaged, cost-conscious consumers,” wrote Katebi.
Budget & Tax
Millionaire Tax Would Drive Taxpayers Out of Massachusetts
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines Proposition 80, a proposed amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that would create a new 4 percent surtax on all incomes greater than $1 million. “Proposition 80 would create an unnecessary burden on Massachusetts taxpayers that would harm economic growth. Instead of increasing taxes on higher earners, Massachusetts lawmakers should focus on making the state a more attractive place for businesses and workers, thus spurring economic development and more state revenue over the long term,” Glans wrote.
From Our Free-Market Friends
Colorado’s Proposed Pension Reform Is a Missed Opportunity
In this paper by the Independence Institute, Joshua Sharf writes about Colorado’s current public pension crisis. Colorado has amassed $50 billion in unfunded liabilities, mostly due to a vastly-underfunded state pension system. Colorado’s Public Employees Retirement Association Board, in conjunction with Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office, claims it has produced a solution: Senate Bill 18-200. However, House Democrats have largely stripped the bill of its most important reforms. Sharf argues pension reform measures should include requiring new employees contribute to a 401(k)-style defined-contribution plan, rather than the traditional defined-benefit model. Sharf says Colorado should also establish a permanent legislative oversight committee with independent, appointed experts and calculate realistic rates of return for the state’s pension portfolio.
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