By Mona Charen • National Review
When 450 students arrived at Anacostia High School in the District of Columbia’s southeast neighborhood on April 4, they found that few of the sinks or toilets were functioning and the cafeteria was flooded. They were advised by the Department of General Services to use the facilities at a middle school two blocks away until repairs could be completed.
Exasperated teachers organized an impromptu, hour-long walkout to protest, which is why this particular dysfunction made the news. A casual reader might note the plumbing fiasco and chalk it up to neglect of poor students and poor neighborhoods. That is the interpretation urged by D.C. Council member Trayon White, Sr. who attended the walkout and declared that, “The students and teachers need support from the leaders of the city because of the constant neglect happening at Anacostia.”
But it’s far from so simple. The District of Columbia has one of the worst-performing public-school systems in the country. It is also one of the most generously funded. Anacostia High School itself received a $63 million renovation in 2013. According to the Department of General Services website, the project included “Full modernization and renovation of the existing high school using an adaptive re-use approach. Continue reading
By Lindsey Burke • National Review
“Education Savings Accounts will be our most significant step yet in giving parents and children the ability to choose the education path that is best suited for them,” declared New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu in his latest State of the State address.
A new proposal would make New Hampshire the seventh state to enact ESAs, and potentially the first to provide all families the opportunity to use them. With an ESA, parents who need to find a school or education option that is a better fit for their child can access some of the money the state would have spent on their child in the public system. They can then use those funds to pay for private-school tuition, online learning, special-education services and therapies, private tutoring, and a host of other education-related services, products, and providers. Parents can also roll over unused funds from year to year.
Last spring, the state senate passed a proposal to create a nearly universal ESA option that Sununu correctly boasted had the potential to be “a gold standard for the rest of the country to follow.” Under the state senate’s legislation, any student entering kindergarten or first grade or switching out of a public district or charter school would be eligible to receive an ESA.
The New Hampshire House Education Committee, however, took a more cautious approach. After a series of hearings and work sessions, the committee adopted a significantly scaled-down version of the proposal that would make ESAs available only to families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty line, as well as Continue reading
By Lewis M. Andrews • National Review
Talk to the people of Illinois about America’s looming public-pension crisis, and they’ll tell you it’s not looming — it’s already here. This month, a statute went into effect giving Comptroller Susana Mendoza the right to make up for any town or county’s delinquent pension payments by seizing its share of sales, excise, and other taxes collected by the state. The result is that municipalities across Illinois have been scrambling to either cut services or raise taxes.
Mattoon officials have announced that ambulance services will be scuttled to pay pension bills a half-million dollars higher than last year’s, while Springfield’s budget director, Bill McCarthy, says he will have to “reduce other services just to meet pension obligations.” Normal will handle the problem through property-tax increases, while Danville has imposed a separate “public safety pension fee,” which will cost residents up to $267 annually. East St. Louis, which depends almost exclusively on its share of tax money from state’s Local Government Distributive Fund, could soon see its entire budget confiscated to satisfy pension obligations.
With a national pension asset shortfall calculated as high as $6 trillion — and with accelerating benefit payouts to retiring Baby Boomers — Illinois is sadly not the only state where voters are being hit with revenue surcharges or deprived of essential services. Florida localities will have to allocate an additional $178.5 million in their upcoming budgets to pension payments; Continue reading
By Joy Pullmann • The Federalist
Through Saturday it’s National School Choice Week, an annual nonpolitical effort to increase visibility and positive feelings about the idea of families having the primary power to control their kids’ education. Beginning in 2011, President Obama recognized the week, and this year President Trump did, too.
The last approximately five years saw a marked increase in states finally opening the doors to voucher and other parent choice programs after more than 50 years of free-marketers’ advocacy. Although it descends from Founding-era school funding arrangements, Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman was the most significant modern thinker to develop and advocate the concept, most notably with a seminal 1955 essay.
But it took 56 years of making this case to lawmakers and the public before state legislatures’ successful activity on the matter prompted the Wall Street Journal to dub 2011 “The Year of School Choice.” That year, 13 states passed significant education choice measures. The WSJ, however, may have used the moniker too soon, as in 2012 and 2013 state legislatures followed with a fresh bevy of choice program establishment and expansions, to the point that today the majority of states offer some kind of parent-choice program, and many offer several.
Since 2013, however, legislative activity on this matter has slowed. Continue reading
By Lewis M. Andrews • The Federalist
In 2011, Arizona became the first state to adopt the most flexible school reform yet, an education savings account (ESA) plan. It provides parents who believe their child is poorly served in the local public school with an annual budget they can spend on a wide variety of accredited alternatives—not just private or parochial schools, but tutoring, online academies, special-needs services, and even computer equipment for home schooling.
More recently, five other states have followed Arizona’s lead: Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, and just this year North Carolina. Initially these programs were designed to better serve learning-disabled children, but with the realization that most of its students could be educated independently for a fraction of public-school per pupil spending, Nevada authorized a plan open to any of that state’s children in 2015.
To date, Democrats in the Nevada legislature have held up funding for about 10,000 applicants, but nearly all of Arizona’s K-12 children are now eligible for an ESA worth 90 percent of their district’s per pupil spending. Continue reading
By Jim Geraghty • National Review
Think of these poll results the next time someone laments that voter turnout is low in the United States. A disturbingly high percentage of Americans can’t name the three branches of government and basically don’t know anything about how their government works.
That’s nearly three-quarters of the American population that can’t cough up “legislative, executive, judicial” on demand and fully 60 percent that can’t name *more than one* of those . . . Continue reading
Dear Chairmen Kline and Upton:
We write in strong opposition to H.R.5365, the “Muhammad Ali Expansion Act,” legislation introduced by Rep. Markwayne Mullin to regulate mixed martial arts (MMA), which is one of the most popular sports in the U.S. and fastest growing throughout the world. This misguided legislation is yet another unfortunate and unneeded regulatory power grab that will stifle the dynamic innovation and success of MMA. Continue reading
Want an independent thinker out of your university? Instigate a “passionate emotional reaction” against him.
Brendan O’Neill • Reason.com
“Are you now or have you ever been a climate contrarian?”
How long before this McCarthyite question is asked of everyone who enters into academia, in order to weed out those who refuse to bow and scrape before green orthodoxy?
If you think this sounds like a far-fetched proposition, consider a recent scandalous act of academic censorship at the University of Western Australia (UWA). And consider, more importantly, the lack of outrage it caused in the West’s professorial circles.
It involves Bjorn Lomborg, the blonde-haired, Danish annoyer of environmentalists everywhere.
Famous for his book The Skeptical Environmentalist—in which he argued that, yes, climate change is real, but, no, cutting back on economic growth won’t help—Lomborg has been a brilliant piece of grit in one-eyed green thinking for more than a decade.
The Australian government, headed by the semi-skeptical Prime Minister Tony Abbott, decided to offer a base to Lomborg for his greenish but pro-growth analysis and agitation. Continue reading
‘Safe spaces’ will create graduates unwilling to tolerate differing opinions—a crisis for a free society.
By Michael Bloomberg and Charles Koch
During college commencement season, it is traditional for speakers to offer words of advice to the graduating class. But this year the two of us—who don’t see eye to eye on every issue—believe that the most urgent advice we can offer is actually to college presidents, boards, administrators and faculty.
Our advice is this: Stop stifling free speech and coddling intolerance for controversial ideas, which are crucial to a college education—as well as to human happiness and progress.
Across America, college campuses are increasingly sanctioning so-called “safe spaces,” “speech codes,” “trigger warnings,” “microaggressions” and the withdrawal of invitations to controversial speakers. By doing so, colleges are creating a climate of intellectual conformity that discourages open inquiry, debate and true learning. Students and professors who dare challenge this climate, or who accidentally run afoul of it, can face derision, contempt, ostracism—and sometimes even official sanctions. Continue reading
by Nicholas Kristof • New York Times
Universities are the bedrock of progressive values, but the one kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological and religious. We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.
O.K., that’s a little harsh. But consider George Yancey, a sociologist who is black and evangelical.
“Outside of academia I faced more problems as a black,” he told me. “But inside academia I face more problems as a Christian, and it is not even close.”
I’ve been thinking about this because on Facebook recently I wondered aloud whether universities stigmatize conservatives and undermine intellectual diversity. The scornful reaction from my fellow liberals proved the point. Continue reading
On the rare good sense of a college administrator.
We’ll come back to the admirable President Drake below. First, the story thus far. For the last six months, since the disruptive and pitiable nonsense at the University of Missouri and Yale made headlines nationwide, university administrators have been in full-cringe mode. Students across the country, seeing what pushovers the administrators at Yale and Mizzou were, have tied themselves into squalid little knots of needy and petulant resentment. At Yale, a posse of students showed up at President Peter Salovey’s house at midnight to present him with a list of demands, including the demand for “a University where we feel safe.” President Salovey, though acknowledging that the students had appeared “somewhat late” on his doorstep, professed himself “deeply disturbed” by the “distress” they felt and promised that he would “seriously” review their new demands.
He certainly did that. Among many other accommodations, he promised to distribute $50 million to the congeries of ethnic, racial, and sexual pseudo-disciplines that provide holding pens for the exotic populations with which contemporary universities assuage their guilty consciences. Continue reading
by Kerri Toloczko • Investor’s Business Daily
In a fit of political pique and campaign considerations, President Obama’s Department of Education is proposing higher education regulations that would deny access to degree programs to nontraditional, low-income and minority students attending for-profit colleges and universities during a time of job scarcity.
The administration has been swinging a sword at this sector since Obama took office, striking through “Gainful Employment” regulations restricting federal student loans based on arbitrary post-graduation employment rates only at private-sector institutions. In 2010, the department proposed similar severe funding restrictions for students attending career colleges and technical schools such as Strayer University, ITT Tech, Kaplan College and University of Phoenix. Continue reading
The long, ugly journey from the Free Speech Movement to professors assaulting protesters.
On March 4, in a designated “free-speech zone” at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), associate professor of feminist studies Mireille Miller-Young walked over to a 16-year-old anti-abortion protester named Thrin Short and demanded that Short take down a graphic sign showing pictures of aborted fetuses. When Short refused, Miller-Young forcibly snatched the sign out of the smaller girl’s hands, then handed it to her students and walked away triumphantly. The rattled teen accurately accused Miller-Young of being a “thief,” to which the professor implausibly retorted: “I may be a thief, but you’re a terrorist!” Adding injury to insult, Miller-Young then shoved the protester and barred her from entering a campus elevator. Moments later, the professor and her students cut the stolen poster to shreds. Continue reading
I still think of myself as a reporter—my role for three decades—although as Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics, the bulk of my job these days is editing and managing. When I do write, much of that time is spent on a Sunday column that appears on RCP’s front page and the op-ed page of the Orange County Register.
But like a straight news reporter, or even a book author, a columnist can get all the facts right and still be wrong. That is to say that, either by omission or implication, a writer can leave the wrong impression with readers. I may have inadvertently done just that in my most recent column, which was about the ideologically driven campus goons—both professors and students—who’ve threatened disruptions at their schools’ graduations ceremonies unless administrators agreed to rescind invitations to the scheduled commencement speakers.
These tactics have worked at various colleges; my May 25 piece focused most closely on the ugly behavior at Rutgers University resulting in the cancellation of a planned address by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. I mentioned in that column that an assortment of left-wingers at the University of Minnesota tried to pull a similar stunt against Rice last month over her planned talk on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Continue reading
Two recent events — one on the east coast and one on the west coast — raise painful questions about whether we are really serious when we say that we want better education for minority children.
One of these events was an announcement by Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., that it plans on August 19th to begin “an entire week of activities to celebrate the grand opening of our new $160 million state-of-the-art school building.”
The painful irony in all this is that the original Dunbar High School building, which opened in 1916, housed a school with a record of high academic achievements for generations of black students, despite the inadequacies of the building and the inadequacies of the financial support that the school received. Continue reading