Saturday, October 31, 2015

Let's enact school choice, not another tax increase

University of Oklahoma president David Boren—who in 2008 endorsed Barack Obama for president, assuring us that Obama was nonpartisan and was committed to ending the divisions in our country—has floated a plan to raise the state sales tax by 22 percent in order to increase government spending on common education and higher education.

Some of us have seen it all before (see chart below) and are in no mood to be fooled by Lucy holding the football again. A better idea is to increase competition in our educational system by creating Education Savings Accounts, as former Oklahoma secretary of commerce Larry Parman writes in an article opposing the Boren tax increase. "Let parents decide how well their child's school is doing and give them the ability to vote with their feet." 

UPDATE: Below is more helpful information on the Boren tax increase, including observations on why it failed.
  • Mr. Parman methodically dissects the Boren plan in this video.
  • Former Gov. Frank Keating, discussing "the Boren proposal making our sales tax the most expensive in the country," asks the question: "For what? Nothing. Nothing. No reform. No private school choice. No rigor. No accountability. Nothing. Just add more money, as if more money will solve a problem. More money doesn’t solve a problem.” 
  • Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb opposes the tax hike and supports school choice.
  • Gov. Mary Fallin voices concerns that a 22 percent tax increase "may cause more people to shop online."
  • OCPA economists Scott Moody and Wendy Warcholik give four reasons the sales tax hike is a bad idea.
  • OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos says it "poses a serious threat to both conservative governance and the best interests of the state." He says it makes no sense "to force a poor single mom buying groceries to feed her children to pay more in sales tax" so we can further subsidize tuition for the children of millionaires.
  • OCPA trustee John Brock (writing in the Tulsa World and in The Oklahoman) says the proposed sales tax increase “will produce a crop of unattractive economic and political consequences.”
  • OCPA economists Scott Moody and Wendy Warcholik explain how the tax increase would be bad for Oklahoma businesses: 
  • OCPA president Michael Carnuccio says it's incumbent upon school bureaucrats to get rid of bloat before asking taxpayers for more money.
  • An Arkansas economist says Hillary Clinton's penny sales tax for education provides a cautionary tale for Oklahomans.
  • Oklahoma City University officials Steven Agee and Russell Evans say the penny sales tax is not a good solution.
  • When the state "raises the already-high sales tax and absconds with the revenue,” writes OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos, “it cripples the ability of cities … to finance any public improvements or even maintain the level of services.”
  • Though not writing about the Boren tax increase itself, former OU education professor Gary Greene points up all manner of inefficient education spending
  • Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett opposes the Boren tax hike. Gov. Mary Fallin is expressing concerns. Even state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is withholding judgment for now.
  • Oklahoma City Councilman Pete White says of the Boren tax hike, "I don't see how we can tolerate it." He says it "would be devastating to cities and towns throughout Oklahoma." 
  • "Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, in his individual capacity, and the Oklahoma Municipal League filed a brief with the Supreme Court saying the proposal would pose a threat to the public because it would cause the state to have one of the highest sales tax rates in the country," the Tulsa World reports. "'As a result, citizens will be economically burdened and will spend less,' the brief states. 'Oklahoma businesses will see revenues decline and will struggle to survive, as citizens spend less or turn to the Internet for their purchases. New businesses will pause when considering Oklahoma as a business-friendly place to invest.' Cities and towns would see a decline in sales tax revenue, which is their lifeblood, the brief states. The decline would affect the ability to provide services for police, fire, roads and bridges, the brief states."
  • Oklahoma County assessor Leonard Sullivan reminds us that Oklahoma County "would be crippled by a 2 1/2-cent sales tax increase."
  • "Given the onerous requirements the proposal imposes on future legislative appropriations," writes OCPA's Michael Carnuccio, "other core areas of government would be cut significantly to fund the additional spending increases mandated by the proposal."
  • OCPA's Jonathan Small tells Oklahoma Watch and the Associated Press that Oklahoma can increase teacher pay without having to adopt the Boren tax increase.
  • The estimable Tax Foundation says the Boren tax hike would make Oklahoma's combined state and average local sales tax the highest in the country.
  • "We are already being hurt tremendously by Internet sales," says Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett. "This will exacerbate the problem. That is without question."
  • The Oklahoma Municipal League points out that the Boren tax increase could hurt Oklahoma police and firefighters.
  • OCPA president Michael Carnuccio says that with Oklahoma's per-pupil available revenues at an all-time high, it's possible to raise teacher pay without resorting to a 22 percent hike in the state sales tax rate.
  • The Sand Springs City Council has approved a resolution opposing the Boren tax increase.
  • Oklahoma GOP national committeeman Steve Fair says the Boren tax increase is a bad idea.  
  • Is this expenditure more important than teacher pay?
  • At least one Tulsa City Councilor doesn't care for Mr. Boren's "ridiculous, half-cocked solution."
  • Instead of a tax hike, asks state Rep. David Brumbaugh (R-Tulsa), "how about some financial transparency and oversight? How about family Education Savings Accounts? Let’s push school choice so children can attend the public or nonprivate school of their choice." 
  • "An initiative petition effort in Oklahoma that would raise the state sales tax to fund various education initiatives also includes language that would strip state legislators of appropriation power, preventing any adjustment to spending for education in down years," The Oklahoman notes. "This means other areas—such as public safety, health and road funding—would face huge budget cuts in times of shortfall. In Mississippi, voters apparently trusted elected lawmakers to handle this job. It will be interesting to see if Oklahoma voters take a similar course, or if they choose to handcuff state policymakers." Looks like it's time for the Takings Coalition to get the band back together.
  • Democratic state Rep. Ben Loring has concerns about the tax. "A sales tax is a regressive tax, in other words, a poor person pays a far higher percentage of their income under a sales tax than anyone else does," he says. Moreover, he says, "if this is passed, I don't foresee the legislature giving any additional moneys to education than what this tax will generate."
  • "I would like to see The Oklahoman ask the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University for a breakdown of their administrative positions with accompanying salaries listed," writes Gary H. Chaffin of Oklahoma City. "I see reports quite frequently of a new position of vice president of this or chancellor of that being created to address some supposed problem. I never see any reports of either school, or any other school for that matter, trying to find ways to save on administration costs. All they ever want is more money! I venture to say the public would be shocked at the number of such positions and the amount of taxpayer money being spent on these salaries. The public should demand this information before even considering another tax." 
  • Dick Soergel of Oklahoma City believes "higher education should present the public with more information," such as "breakdowns of total annual revenue for each of the past 10 years; the student/teacher ratio (including graduate assistants who are teaching many classes); the average salaries of our college professors compared with surrounding states; the average salaries and growth in administrators at our colleges; an analysis of funding the number of colleges and universities versus our tax base, and plans for addressing the liberal bias that is prevalent in our colleges and universities."
  • "OU President David Boren wants a sales tax increase to fund education while loaning a bankrupt technology company over $500,000," writes Dub Whalen of Oklahoma City. "This company was started by an OU professor who holds many valuable patents and works for OU. It's not bad enough that taxpayer money is used to fund private companies under the guise of job creation, but we have state universities in the loan business while continually raising tuition."
  • Tom O'Neill of Edmond says Mr. Boren's "newest request for yet more money for the education empire is an insult to taxpayers.
  • John Harris of Oklahoma City says "when the state gets the number of school districts to a reasonable level and pares the administrators," among other things, "then I will vote more money. Until then, I will reluctantly vote no."
  • The Boren tax increase was defeated by a margin of 59.4 percent to 40.6 percent.
  • "Yet those close to him say—and Boren, himself, acknowledges—that this campaign is about how history will remember him,"
  • A perceptive public school teacher realizes that Higher Ed sunk her pay raise.
  • "It was Boren's effort to mislead voters that ultimately led to the defeat of this state question," Steven C. Agree writes. "Once voters were educated about the issue, and the fact that essentially $400 million of the estimated $615 million in tax revenue would not be going to teacher pay raises, there was an obvious revolt at the ballot box." Agee believes we should be wary of people "who seek to feather their own nest by riding the coattails of our public school teachers."

OKC teachers criticize discipline policies

"Suspensions may be down in the Oklahoma City school district, but hundreds of teachers say bad behavior continues to disrupt learning and little is being done about it," Tim Willert reports in The Oklahoman.
Nearly 90 percent of 836 teachers responding to a union survey say they are responsible for administering the majority of student discipline, despite assurances from district officials that school administrators are spending more time doing interventions. 
Many describe chaotic classroom settings and said they feel like baby sitters who spend more time trying to control defiant students than planning and teaching.

“I have 40 minutes of scheduled (planning) time and 30 minutes of scheduled lunch each day, but rarely get to utilize it because I am dealing with discipline issues,” a teacher said. “This year I have acquired multiple bruises, bite marks and a knot on my head from a student pulling my hair so hard. This is frustrating and makes me feel very helpless.”

Friday, October 23, 2015

Newspaper raps plaintiffs trying to kill special-needs law

If the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program is unconstitutional, The Oklahoman editorializes today, "then state spending to treat the poor at many major hospitals obviously is too, which could throw Oklahoma's health care system into chaos. Let's hope Oklahoma Supreme Court justices demonstrate better reasoning skills than the plaintiffs in this case."

Anti-voucher humdrum from the usual suspects

Former OCPA research assistant Patrick Gibbons has heard it all before.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Monday, October 19, 2015

Oklahoma graduation rate declines

"High school graduation rates for most states continue to improve, according to preliminary data released Monday by the Obama administration," the Associated Press reports.
The Education Department says preliminary data indicate 36 states saw higher graduation rates for the 2013-2014 school year. The biggest gains were in Delaware, Alabama, Oregon, West Virginia and Illinois. 
Five states had declines: Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico and Oklahoma. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Government should not penalize parents by making them pay twice

"Because parents have the personal obligation to take care of their own children, no other person can take over their responsibility and corresponding authority," writes Melissa Moschella, an assistant professor of philosophy at the Catholic University of America.
Even when parents delegate part of that authority to teachers, doctors, relatives, etc., they remain ultimately responsible. For that reason, parents have not only the responsibility, but also the right, to rear their children in accordance with their consciences. 
When the state requires that children be educated in a way that parents consider harmful or inadequate, the state is preventing parents from fulfilling their obligations, thus violating their conscience rights and potentially damaging the children. It is assumed, of course, that the state considers itself to be acting for the benefit of the child, as in the case of the Romeikes and the Johanssons. But since parents have primary authority over their children, when there is disagreement between parents and state, the state should defer, except in clear and non-controversial cases of abuse, neglect, or threat to public order. ... 
The state also has the right to enact minimal educational regulations with a view to the maintenance of public order. Such regulations assure that all children receive the education that they need to become law-abiding and productive citizens able to participate responsibly in the democratic process. However, the state can and should enact such regulations in a way that supports, rather than undermines, the primacy of parental educational authority. It thus should not impose a particular curriculum, require that all children attend a state-run school, or penalize parents (even financially, by requiring them to pay both school taxes and private school tuition or homeschooling costs) for not sending their children to a school operated by the state.

Legal limbo persists for Henry Scholarship kids

Andrea Eger has the story.

Here's hoping for a good outcome for these kids:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The not-so-subtle ways public schools promote Islam at the expense of Christianity

David French discusses them here.

Parents explain why they don't want choices

Teacher shortage 'crisis'?

"According to Oklahoma State Department of Education statistics obtained by MiddleGround News," Jay Chilton reports, "during the past three school years, the average student-to-teacher ratio has been 14.5-to-1. During the 2012-13 school year there were 14.4 students per certified teacher, in 2013-14 there were 14.7 students per teacher, and in 2014-15 there were 14.6 students per teacher."

Oklahoma testing system ‘designed to hide failure’

Citing a recent report by the journal Education Next, The Oklahoman points out today that Oklahoma's testing system "is designed to hide failure."
Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, states are required to test students in grades three through eight in math and reading. But states set the score required to be deemed “proficient” on those tests. 
For the most part, far lower scores are accepted for proficiency on state tests than on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) test. Education Next compared the share of students deemed proficient on state tests with the share ranked that way on NAEP to determine if high standards were employed on state tests. Oklahoma ranked 45th. 
More worrisome, between 2011 and 2013, Education Next found 20 states raised the standard for proficiency on state tests while just eight states lowered standards. Oklahoma was in the latter group. 
Oklahoma families deserve a public school system that combines quality academic standards with valid testing measurement of results—not a system in which failure to meet inferior standards is still deemed a success.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Funding growth, expanding opportunity

Michael Q. McShane recommends some novel funding mechanisms for schools of choice.

Survey: African-American parents emphatically favor school choice

Lennie Jarratt reports that "African-American parents overwhelmingly favor school choice, according to a new nationwide report conducted by Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies (BCRS)."

Monday, October 5, 2015

Oklahoma GOP interim chairman promotes school choice

"Our candidates for the White House are sharing their vision for America," Oklahoma GOP interim chairman Estela Hernandez writes in a blog post today.
One thing that all our candidates agree on is the need for improving education in this country. The best way to improve our student’s success is to allow parents the freedom to choose the educational path that is best for them. 
Our Republican Principles says, "It is the right of every parent to act in their children’s best interest including health decisions and choosing the form of their education, whether at a public school, private school, or homeschool." 
Currently, there is a move by Democrats to institute a sales tax dedicated to education. Before we simply throw more money at the problems of education we need to reform the system. Students who are trapped in underperforming schools must be given the opportunity to succeed. 
We need more solutions and less rhetoric, we must come together as parents, as Republicans, as Oklahomans and work together for a stronger, more efficient education system that offers real solutions and real options. 
OCPA recently released a great video about Republican solutions for education, I encourage you to watch it. 

Four ideas for expanding school choice in Oklahoma

[Guest post by Patrick Gibbons]

Oklahoma already has two private-school choice programs which are making a big difference in the lives of children. Unfortunately, the programs only serve a tiny fraction of Oklahoma students. Here’s how policymakers could help more children.

Expand Tax Credit Scholarships

We know that tax credit scholarships are popular among the voting public. Policymakers should look to improve and expand Oklahoma’s existing program. They should remove the cap on corporate and individual donations so both groups can donate as much as they wish and also increase the total cap above the current $3.5 million, which is a just a tenth of one percent of Oklahoma’s state appropriations for education. Moreover, adding an “escalator” to the cap can allow the program to grow automatically if scholarship organizations raise 90 percent of the funds for the current cap. In addition, offering tiered scholarships based on income level can ensure equity by providing lower-income families with more financial support.

Provide Individual Tax Credits for Education Expenses

Parents paying for private education or home education have to pay twice: once in taxes to support public schools and again for tuition, fees, textbooks, and school supplies. To address some of this unfairness, some states now offer tax credits for these education expenses. Illinois has the largest tax credit program with nearly 300,000 families earning credits up to $500 for educational expenses. [Model legislation for Oklahoma is here.]

Individual tax credits for education expenses are subject to one major criticism: you only get tax credits up to the amount you owe in taxes. Since wealthier families tend to owe the most in taxes, they will get the largest tax credits. Which brings us to the next policy proposal.

Provide Refundable Tax Credits for Private School Expenses

One solution to the problem mentioned above is a refundable tax credit for educational expenses, such as exists in South Carolina. That program allows parents of special-needs children to receive up to $10,000 in tax credits for educational expenses. If the credits exceed your tax bill then you receive a tax refund for the difference. This ensures that the rich aren’t the biggest beneficiary of the program. (However, not all families can afford to wait several months for the refund.)

Create Education Savings Accounts

When Arizona’s special-needs voucher program was declared unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court speculated that a program which allowed parents to choose more than just private schools could be constitutional. Thus, the nation’s first ESA program was born.

With an ESA, the state funds an educational account parents can access to pay tuition, school fees, textbooks, school supplies, curriculum, and therapies. In Florida, for example, parents can even contract out services with charter, virtual, and district public schools. Under ESA programs, reimbursements are reduced from months to weeks, or can be immediate through the use of a debit card.

[Former OCPA research assistant Patrick Gibbons (M.A. in political science, University of Oklahoma) is the public affairs manager at Step Up for Students, an organization providing scholarships for low-income and special-needs schoolchildren in Florida. A former schoolteacher, Gibbons also serves as a research fellow for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.]

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The high-regulation approach to school choice

In a series of blog posts, Professor Jay Greene will discuss why he thinks this approach is mistaken.

Latinos want to talk about education more than immigration

Seven out of 10 Latinos support some of type of school choice, Julio Fuentes writes.