An interesting NYT column that would have been better titled “Stop Trying to Impose Good Ideas from the States on Everyone from Washington”

January 12, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Read it for yourself and see what you think. I’m struck by two things- first the assumption that it takes additional state funding to pull off reform at the state level. I think that the handwriting is on the wall that the types of reform states and the feds will need to focus on now and going forward. The focus will need to be on the “how do we get a bigger bang for the bucks we are already spending” rather than “now, NOW we are smart enough to know how to spend this new money much better than that frozen in place money, so give us more.”

The writer makes an interesting point about partisan control and policy diffusion, but failed to note that one party is in control of a much larger number of states than the other party- mostly due to one party blowing up the lab on health care btw. Given the type of reform needed (those that make better use of existing resources) and the philosophical leanings of the party in control of a large number of states, I’m expecting to see a healthy amount of policy diffusion.

School Choice News from Maranto, Van Raemdonck, Chingos, and Peterson

January 9, 2015

We do not have any additional breaking news to report on Europe once again descending into Jew-hating, illiberal fascism.  But we do have some good news to report on school choice.  My colleagues, Bob Maranto and Dirk Van Raemdonck, have a piece in the Wall Street Journal on how the US and Belgium made different choices about how to handle religious conflict over education in the 19th century.  The US chose to persecute its minority Catholic population by imposing a vaguely Protestant monopoly system on all students while Belgium created a competitive system allowing for choice across different religious and secular school systems.  The Belgian system is less repressive and has produced better outcomes.  Perhaps the US could give that approach more of a try.

Separately, Matt Chingos and Paul Peterson have an article in the Journal of Public Economics (also available without pay wall here) that supports the claim that the US would produce better long-term outcomes if it expanded school choice.  Chingos and Peterson are able to track long term outcomes of a privately-funded school choice program in New York City that gave students small scholarships to attend a private school.  As Chingos describes the results on the Ed Next blog:

Minority students who received a school voucher to attend private elementary schools in 1997 were, as of 2013, 10 percent more likely to enroll in college and 35 percent more likely than their peers in public school to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

Keep in mind that this is an enormous return on a very small investment.  The privately funded voucher was only worth $1,400, which is $2,080 in 2014 dollars.  And the Chingos and Peterson results are particularly important because they track long term outcomes that we know really matter, like attending and completing college.  Most studies of school choice focus on short term effects on standardized tests, which may not capture as well or as completely the benefits of a quality education.

(edited to correct typo)

Florida Court Dismisses ESA Suit, FEA opts not to appeal

January 8, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

One of the Florida choice lawsuits is over, specifically this one. Chalk up another school choice victory for our man Clint Bolick.

National Freedom Museum High School Essay Contest

January 7, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.

-Martin Luther King Jr.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Selma march. The National Liberty Museum is sponsoring an essay contest for high school students in response. The topic:

“The movie Selma tells the story of how Martin Luther King, Jr. and others peacefully protested to advance voting rights. What do you think needs to be done today to protect individual freedom and self-determination? What are you doing or will you do to peacefully advance those rights?”

The contest is open to students aged 14-18 in public, private and home school programs. Details about the prizes and contest requirements can be found here.


Pass the Popcorn: Luck Is for Suckers!

January 6, 2015


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

How do I love the new Annie movie? Let me count the ways:

1) It’s really entertaining, as long as you don’t expect too much from it. It’s not saccharine and treacley like the original Annie. In fact, the very first thing you see on the screen is a huge, completely unsubtle, on-the-nose message from the filmmakers announcing: “This Annie will not be saccharine and treacley like that other Annie!” It’s a hilarious gag.

There’s a real artistry to the way this movie does the Annie story without treacle. I think half my enjoyment of the movie was admiring how they pulled this off.

Consider how they handle “Tomorrow.” You can’t have Annie without “Tomorrow.” But audiences in the post-Seinfeld culture are not going to sit still for “Tomorrow.” Not unless you do something that forces them to. How to do it? By putting the song in an unhappy scene. Annie gets a major disappointment – life basically kicks her in the teeth. The sad moment just lingers on screen quietly for a bit. And then Annie half-says, half-sings to herself, quietly, “the sun will come out tomorrow.” And a moment later she’s singing “Tomorrow” and it’s slowly but surely building steam. And you’re rooting for her.

These people actually know how to make a frikkin’ movie. Can you believe it? Where have they been for the last twenty years?

2) It has a fantastic set of core values. After the opening scene, Annie is racing out of school to get somewhere she needs to be on time. Her friends call out: “Hope you make it!” “We’ll cover for you!” “Good luck!” And to this last statement she turns around and shouts back: “Luck is for suckers!” We then follow her through the city as she uses her ingenuity (and several prominent product placements) to get where she needs to be on time.

The basic message of this movie is: “Yes, life often sucks, but if you work hard and have guts, you can get ahead. Once you do, remember that you need people, too.” And we can’t have too much of that these days.

The Daddy Warbucks character – who for obvious reasons can’t be called “Warbucks” anymore so he is now, cleverly, “Will Stacks” – takes Annie on a helicopter ride above the city. The following exchange occurs (I quote from memory):

Annie: So how did you get to be the king of the city?

Stacks: I don’t think I’m the king of anything. I just work my butt off. The harder I work, the more opportunities I have. In life you have to play the hand you’re dealt, no matter how bad the cards are.

Annie: What if you don’t have any cards?

Stacks: You bluff.

He then sings her a song – a song! – about how anyone can get ahead if they work hard and have “heart.” To some extent it even oversells the point; in fact, not everyone can get mega-wealthy and become famous and have a helicopter. But like I said, you can’t have too much praise for hard work these days.

Praise for hard work is basically hope.

3) The core values are wrapped in a (mild and relatively unobtrusive) progressive political veneer. Some of my conservative friends are put off by the movie’s occasionally bowing toward the idols of contemporary liberal fashion. To the contrary, that enhances my enjoyment. If the work ethic is exclusively “conservative,” only conservatives will have the work ethic. If praise for hard work is hope, seeing hard work affirmed across ideological lines provides some justification for that hope. And this leads me to my next point.

4) What I think I enjoyed most is that the makers of this movie felt responsible to the story of Annie. I almost wrote, to the “franchise,” but the “franchise” is essentially the business value of the Annie story to its copyright owners, and while that is considerable, this is about more than that.

Most remakes or reboots pay relatively little attention to the heart of the story they’re handling. They keep the superficial stuff the same – the names of the characters and so on – but they want to “update” the franchise, make it marketable today. So they swap out the old engine (the heart of the story) for a new one, and keep the chassis more or less the same for the sake of brand recognition.

This movie keeps the engine and swaps out the chassis. That’s what a remake ought to do.

So of course there are some mild liberal pieties. The Annie story is about rich and poor; there used to be a time when you could tell that story without politics, but not now. Of course there are several major plot twists that would never have worked in the original Annie. They do work with this Annie. The point is, this Annie is still Annie.

And of course the millionaire is now black and has an interracial love interest. That’s the world we live in now, everyone.

Annie is all the more Annie – she is more Annie than she ever was before – for being black. Who has more right to sing “It’s a Hard Knock Life”? And who has had more occasion to learn that life means looking toward “Tomorrow” by faith rather than by sight?

The story of Annie has always been America’s ideal of itself at its best. I’m not sure a black Annie isn’t a greater sign of triumph over historic injustice than a black president.

Now why on earth didn’t they name him “Bill” Stacks?

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey calls for expansive parental choice in inaugural address

January 5, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

“It will be a first principle of my agenda that schools and choices available to affluent parents must be open to all parents, whatever their means, wherever they live, period.”

Burke and Bedrick Discuss the Next Step for School Choice in National Affairs

January 2, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Jason Bedrick and Lindsey Burke take to the pages of National Affairs to discuss Education Savings Accounts in a very informative article. I share the author’s interest in a tax credit funded ESA model. In fact I hope that some of our preexisting tax credit programs will move to an account model. Enthusiasts such as myself however will eventually need to address the limits to scale soon to appear in the largest tax credit program- but quite frankly this is the type of problem you want to have, and it may not prove insurmountable.

Lindsey and Jason earn the first BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM of 2015.


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