NAEP Gains by Spending Trend- Some States are the Harlem Globetrotters, Others the Washington Generals

February 24, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Notice the large number of states on the negative side of zero on the spending bar. In the immortal words of Lee Ving it’s already started.


Once again let me note with insufferable state pride that Arizona is your ROI champion doing things that no one would have thought possible.

Go majority-minority, cut funding and improve scores? No problem-nothing but net!

So it is tough to pick a Washington Generals, but I’ve got mine narrowed down between Alaska, New York and Wyoming.


Florida School Boards Association Prepares to File Suit Against Tax Credit

August 27, 2014

Florida census

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Despite the wishes of the parents of 69,000 low-income children, despite the fact that Florida districts improved outcomes substantially during an era of increasing parental options, despite positive third-party academic evaluations of the tax credit program, and despite Census Bureau projections that show that Florida’s district schools will likely face a severe overcrowding problem, the word is out that the Florida School Boards Association is set to file suit against Florida’s tax credit program.  As you can see from the post below, Florida is one of the lower-income states. As you can see from the chart above, both the youth and elderly populations of Florida are set to substantially grow over the next decade and a half.  Elderly people already consume a majority of Medicaid funding, and when your population of 65+ projects to grow from 3.4m to 7.8m you’ve got a huge problem on your hands.

The tax credit program will not begin to solve this problem by itself, but nothing will.  Florida is going to need a series of policy innovations to improve state outcomes while lowering costs to get through this.  Innovations with results **ahem** like the tax credit program.  The average scholarship amount is about half of the public school spending rate. Better still, the third-party academic evaluations by Northwestern economist David Figlio found academic gains for both participating students and for public schools facing higher levels of competition.

If the Florida School Boards Association has a plan to deal with the age demographic storm on the horizon, which includes a projected million plus increase in the size of the K-12 population while the state ages, I would like to know what it is.  Stamp out successful reforms and then cover the playgrounds with trailers and hope for the best?  School districts are always going to be the backbone of the education system in Florida. Funding for education is guaranteed by the Florida Constitution and supported by the public.

Nevertheless, Florida urgently and badly needs improvement and innovation in the public sector, especially in K-12.  This lawsuit represents a step in the wrong direction and more worrying still speaks to a complete lack of either awareness or seriousness about the challenges facing Florida’s future.

Heavily Taxed Surrounded by Young and Old People is No Way to Spend 2030 Son

July 9, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The CBO is projecting a slowing rate of economic growth due to the aging of the population. Some of my favorite people are retirees mind you, but you don’t see all many of them developing new products, services or other innovations. They are retired after all and thus have largely withdrawn from the work world.  Children largely have yet to enter into the work world.  If you get a large percentage of your population as young and/or old, it will put a serious strain on your working age population to pay the taxes to maintain state services like education and health care.

Age by State


Washington state not only comes in with the lowest projected percentage of young and old people, it is also currently one of the states that currently has no state income tax. Moreover, it borders a state (Oregon) also projected to have a relatively age demographic profile and that has no sales tax. I’ve never been to Vancouver Washington but let’s just say I’m keeping an eye on it.  Texas with its favorable age demographics, solid business climate, and state revenue bubbling out of the ground (plus Tex-Mex!!!!) will be hard to beat.

The taxpayers of 2030 are in the K-12 pipeline right now. States like Arizona and New Mexico especially should feel nothing short of panic regarding how few of them can do little things like read and/or perform grade level math. Having almost half of your population falling outside of working age and large swathes of the working age population poorly educated looks like a recipe for disaster to these eyes. I’m a fairly determined optimist generally speaking, but low NAEP scores and high age dependency ratios appear highly troubling. Even states like Florida should regard their improved K-12 outcomes as merely a good start.

The burden of being a middle aged taxpayer in 2030 looks heavy, and it doesn’t improve afterwards. Many adjustments lie ahead, and there are things we could be doing now to help later. I can’t improve upon how the Economist put it, and it bears frequent repeating:

In rich countries, this generation of adults is not doing well by its children. They will have to pay off huge public-sector debts. They will be expected to foot colossal bills for their parents’ pension and health costs. They will compete for jobs with people from emerging countries, many of whom have better education systems despite their lower incomes. The least this generation can do for its children is to try its best to improve its state schools. Giving them more independence can do that at no extra cost. Let there be more of it.

Please Return to Your Seats and Fasten Your Seat Belts…

February 17, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I have a new guest post on RedefinED today showing that everything in Florida will be fine as the children of the Baby Boomers have children and the Baby Boomers retire. So long that is if they find a way to reformat Medicaid to keep it affordable, create 1.4 million new school spaces and somehow avoid a major drag on economic growth as the percentage of working age people declines.   

You know, just a few minor things here and there. 

%d bloggers like this: