Consumer spending accounts for approximately two-thirds of the U.S. economy, and this helpful chart…
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Shattering the Decade of "New Normal" Economic Sluggishness

Consumer spending accounts for approximately two-thirds of the U.S. economy, and this helpful chart from the U.S. Senate's Joint Economic Committee illustrates why our economy suddenly turbocharged over the past two years from its decade of sluggishness that we were told was the "new normal":

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="439" caption="Turbocharging the U.S. Consumer Economy"][/caption]…[more]

October 15, 2018 • 11:46 am

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America Still Needs School Choice Print
By Ben Boychuk
Thursday, January 21 2016
The promise of public education — educating the public to be productive citizens in a free republic — has been broken. The remedy is not more of the same, but more choice.

Next week is National School Choice Week. Now in its sixth year, the event — really, 16,140 events spread across all 50 states — is meant to celebrate a range of educational options for parents and kids and shine a bright light on places where those options are few and far between.

We live at a time when you can order more than 80,000 combinations of coffee and espresso at Starbucks, chow on more than 400 variations on a hamburger from the “secret menu” at California’s famous In-N-Out Burger chain, and sip from among 1,500 whiskeys from around the world at the Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland, Oregon. And yet when it comes time to send your child to school, your three basic options are: a public school based on your ZIP code, a private school (if you can afford the tuition), or a parochial school (also at a cost — and that’s if you are religiously inclined).

If your local public school isn’t very good, you might be able to request to have your child transferred to a better-performing school within your assigned district. Or, depending on the state, you may have the option of enrolling your child at a better school in a much better adjoining district. (That’s what my wife and I have done with our two children.) 

A charter school may be a possibility, too, if your state has a charter school law (seven do not) and if your nearby charter school has space. About 2.57 million children are enrolled in 6,440 charter schools nationwide, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Meantime, more than 1 million children sit on waiting lists. Parents’ demand for charter schools has always outpaced the supply.

Contrary to teachers’ union propaganda, charter schools are public schools. The only real difference between a traditional public school and a public charter school is the charter has greater leeway with hiring, contracting services and setting school hours and curriculum. Charter school teachers aren’t necessarily unionized — although some are — and some states allow for-profit operators, which drives the unions crazy. (Perhaps they would be more amenable if they were getting a cut of the profits.)

Generally speaking, opponents of free market-style education reforms say “privatization” would wreck public education as we know it. And they’re not wrong. In fact, that’s the point. The existing model is outmoded, poorly managed, expensive to maintain and in many ways counterproductive. 

U.S. taxpayers in 2011-12 “invested” $621 billion in elementary and secondary education, or roughly $12,400 per student on average. But our return on that investment has been mixed at best. Spending is much higher and performance tends to be much lower in places like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. 

If you look at student test scores in math, English, science and civics between 1994 and 2014, what you see are middling gains or outright stagnation. Last year, in fact, student scores in math and reading went down for the first time in the history of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as America’s Report Card. Internationally, the United States in 2012 ranked 27th in math and 20th in science — below Slovakia and Denmark, but still well ahead of Kazakhstan and Uraguay.

The system has foundered. The promise of public education — educating the public to be productive citizens in a free republic — has been broken. The remedy is not more of the same, but more choice.

Several states have made bold advances in school choice. Indiana, Arizona and Florida, for example, have a whole host of options for parents to choose, including statewide voucher programs for low- and middle-income families, disabled children and children of active-duty military personnel. They also offer tax-credit scholarships or special savings accounts that parents may use to pay for a wide variety of education-related expenses, including tuition, tutoring and transportation. 

Yet virtually everywhere that choice exists, the old education establishment is fighting to roll it back. 

The latest case comes out of Nevada, where a Carson City District Court judge on January 11 stopped the implementation of the state’s new education savings account law. Under the program, which Republican Governor Brian Sandoval signed into law last year, parents could receive between $5,100 and $5,700 — equal to 90 percent of what the state pays per pupil now — to cover tuition to a private school of their choice or other expenses. Any money left over by the time a child graduates from high school could be used for college tuition. 

Naturally, the education establishment sees any effort to channel money away from itself as a mortal threat. Moreover, the ACLU and other opponents contend the program violates the First Amendment, because tax dollars would end up at religious schools — never mind that parents, not the state, determine how to spend the money.

Ideally, school choice would be universal, exactly along the lines of what Nevada is attempting. States would fund each child individually, rather than pour billions into bureaucracies and buildings. Public schools as we know them now would be fewer in number, but most likely of substantially higher quality as they compete for kids. Private, tax-credit scholarship programs would flourish. Teachers unions wouldn’t have nearly the political clout they have now — although the U.S. Supreme Court will have something to say about that soon, regardless whether vouchers become ubiquitous. 

Americans need to fundamentally rethink how we educate our children. The end of education is self-sufficiency for the greater public good. The means of getting there should be left to parents, not state functionaries, to decide.

Question of the Week   
Between 1946 and 2016, what percentage of U.S. Supreme Court decisions have split evenly (4-4)?
More Questions
Quote of the Day   
 
"With the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh, for the first time in generations there is a majority of justices on the Supreme Court who, to varying degrees, practice originalism and textualism. This means that the Court can systematically begin to restore the Constitution to its original meaning. This constitutional restoration does not mean that the Constitution's original meaning is the best choice…[more]
 
 
—John Yoo and James C. Phillips
— John Yoo and James C. Phillips
 
Liberty Poll   

During a campaign season, particularly one as intense as the current midterm cycle, do you respond to telephone political polling?