Jason and EdChoice Hit the Big Time

January 28, 2017

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Jason and EdChoice have both hit the Big Time bigger than Blank Reg – Jason is joining the EdChoice team as national policy director.

Not sure whom this is a bigger win for! Jason hits the big time by joining EdChoice and EdChoice hits the big time by hiring Jason.

What I do know is that thanks to his work here at JPGB, an image search for Jason’s name turns up Dawn of the Dragon Slayer, Emperor Palpatine and “Who Watches the Watchmen?” Let’s make sure we keep Jason in the think tank business and well away from the Imperial Senate!


In time, you will call ME National Policy Director!

Real Accountability Is Choice, Not Regulation

January 27, 2017


(Guest Post by Jason Bedrick)

Imagine that a lobbyist from the taxi industry argued that rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft are “unaccountable” because they aren’t subject to the same regulations as the taxi industry.

The right response, of course, would be to laugh at the absurdity. Clearly Uber and Lyft drivers are much more accountable than taxi drivers because they are directly accountable to the consumer. Passengers rate their drivers based on the quality of their experience, so drivers tend to work hard to ensure that passengers have a good experience. When was the last time you got into a taxi and were offered candy or your choice of music?

Now imagine that someone responded to the taxi lobbyist with something like the following:

That may have been the case years ago, when Uber first burst onto the scene. Rideshare companies were not generally subject to price controls — not even to prohibit “surge pricing” —and even if they were, there were no requirements to purchase a taxi medallion or obtain a commercial license. And, to be fair, that’s still the case for some rideshare companies, where commercial insurance requirements remain light to nonexistent.

But what some rideshare-doubters might not know is that some of the newest and biggest rideshare markets—like those in New York and Maryland—now have significant accountability provisions that are arguably even stronger than those found in many taxi laws. That’s no accident. Pro-rideshare lawmakers adopted these taxi-like requirements because some of us accountability hawks and advocacy groups pushed for them.

In Austin, Texas, participating rideshare companies must run fingerprint background checks on all their drivers. In New York City, drivers must obtain a Taxi and Limousine Commission permit and license plate that’s used to show that the driver meets the city’s standards. Mayor Bill De Blasio has also pushed for imposing a medallion-like system that would keep the growth in the number of rideshare drivers down to manageable levels.

So if you oppose Uber and Lyft because of lack of accountability, it may be time to change your position.

Sadly, that’s almost exactly what Fordham’s Mike Petrilli wrote this week in attempting to defend choice programs from the spurious charge that they are “unaccountable.” The above paragraphs are merely a revised version of what he actually wrote (as Matt highlighted earlier this week). Rather than explain that the very act of choosing is, itself, a strong form of accountability, Mike instead lists all the ways in which some voucher programs subject schools to top-down government regulations–“just like their public school counterparts.”

This fundamentally misunderstands accountability. As I explained at the Heritage Foundation earlier this week, true accountability is when service providers are directly answerable to the people most affected by their performance. When that isn’t possible, as when a utility company has a monopoly, top-down regulations may be necessary instead. But we shouldn’t confuse the inferior alternative accountability regime for the ideal form of accountability just because that’s what we’re used to. As Thomas Sowell has written, “It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”

Sadly, we’ve become so accustomed to the “accountability” regime imposed on the monopoly district school system that many people have not only come to confuse it for true accountability, but they no longer recognize true accountability when they see it.

UPDATE: For my comments at Heritage this week, plus even wiser commentary from Jay Greene and Yuval Levin, see here:


Good Listen/Reads

January 26, 2017

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Jay goes full podcast with Nick Gillispie, putting the Secretary of Ed debate in context and revealing an “anarcho-socialist” youth. Congrats on keeping the more desirable half btw! Reason also covered the ESA push in Texas:

Andy Smarick presses the attack on the massive failure of the SIG program and sees an opening for choice. Mike Petrilli asks you to please ignore the evaluation disasters as he courts the technocratic tribe on the bossy nature of the Louisiana voucher program.

Finally the most interesting thing you will read this month just might be “What Do You Do if a Red State Moves to You?”  Editorial comment on the latter: there are obviously disturbing trends afoot but democracy is designed to develop compromises that people can live if not love. If the Presidency devolves into whose team gets to make imperial diktats from on high to govern by pen and phone expect unending backlash from all sides of every issue.

The Way of the Future: Vertical Farming

January 24, 2017

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The interwebs are full of predictions of doom for Big Box retail- Amazon continues to surge, Macy’s and Sears closing stores, etc. What the Sears catalog had been to rural general stores, so to is Amazon to retailers of today.

Now Big Box may strike back by finding its online footing and value in their physical locations, and thus news of its death may be greatly exaggerated. But then again, maybe not. Free two-day delivery was impressive, but two-hour delivery is tough to beat. Fasten your seat belt because this ride is going to get very turbulent.

Let’s assume for a moment that Big Box retail continues to flounder as more and more Americans discover the delights of e-commerce. What becomes of all of that real estate?

A recent New Yorker article on new agricultural techniques suggests one possibility: vertical farming. The practice involves stacking of crops in trays indoors and spraying their roots with mineral enhanced water rather than planting them in soil. Based upon the information provided in the article and my Wilson Middle School Algebra, this technique uses 9% of the freshwater of that utilized in conventional farming to produce the same amount of crops. The technique is also hyper efficient in the use of land, potentially freeing large amounts farmland for other uses. In addition, since you can utilize this technique basically anywhere, sellers can reduce shipping costs. If government policy ever had an attack of reason and allowed market forces to play a greater role in agricultural water use, the attractiveness of these techniques would be even greater.

The company featured in the New Yorker article is operating out of Newark New Jersey. The price of real estate is the likely reason for a Newark as opposed to a Manhattan operation. Climate controlled indoor space will be needed to make this practice thrive, and as luck would have it, a great deal more of it may be looking for different uses.

Of course, this speculative piece may seem entirely misguided a couple of decades because someone figured an even better use for the space. I’ve heard for instance that a charter school operator converted a Target into a very nice school facility. Perhaps agriculture will follow a different path. Let’s see what happens next.


Begun the School Choice Week Has

January 23, 2017

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

School Choice Week is upon us, which means it is time for Step Up for Students to update us with their above cool graphic showing the progress of student options in Florida. Btw there is more of this on the way after the Florida Supreme Court wisely decided not to hear the Florida Education Association’s appeal of their lawsuit against the programs.

Jason has a good post over at Cato about action in the states. Jason predicts Year of School Choice, Jr. while Greg gets his steak knives ready.

Finally my favorite tweet of the year (so far) comes from Expect More Arizona Director of Programs and Policy Geoff Espo:




Patty Hearst and the Ed Reform Left

January 19, 2017

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So yesterday Elizabeth Warren read the six-inch Dark Lord of Nightmares’ letter at the DeVos confirmation hearing, and it got me to thinking about Patty Hearst. In the early 1970s heiress Patty Hearst was kidnapped by a radical left-wing terrorist organization, kept blindfolded and bound in a closet for weeks. She suffered terrible abuse. Eventually she grew sympathetic with the views of her captives, changed her name, and joined them in bank robberies and the creation of propaganda, eventually leading to her arrest and imprisonment in 1975. Hearst came to mind because MA charters are now effectively trapped, but have begun attempting to curry favor with their captors. President Carter commuted her sentence in the late 1970s and then someone bought a Bubba pardon for her on Ebay President Clinton pardoned her in 2001.

To my progressive friends in the education reform movement, let me respectfully suggest that this is not an example you wish to follow.

So Donald Trump will take the oath of office to become President of the United States tomorrow. I’m still shocked to write such a thing. To put things delicately, he’s not my cup of tea either. The American people however chose to elect him. They had other options available and the rules of the game regarding the Electoral College were known to all players in advance. I don’t know who hacked Podesta’s email but I’m pretty sure they didn’t force Hillary to avoid visiting Wisconsin and Michigan. Nor did they inexplicably direct millions of dollars to television ads in states like Arizona, Georgia and Texas in preference to more GOTV and efforts in the real swing states of MI and PA. If you are looking for the folks who lost this election for HRC, search Brooklyn rather than Moscow.

In 2008 I found myself attempting to assure my conservative friends that life would in fact go on despite the election of Barack Obama. Don’t get me wrong- I was no fan at the time and never became one. The world ended again in 2012…except it didn’t. I had liberal friends that were ready to move to Canada in 2004. I told them that I survived 8 years of Bill Clinton and that they would survive 8 years of Dubya. Sure enough they did. While Trump is unique in many ways, let’s try to remain open to the idea that the Founders prepared for scoundrels in high office and that this too just might pass.

Fear, loathing, triangulaton, whatever-Stockholm Syndrome is always bad look imo.



















The View Sure Looks Good from Here

January 19, 2017


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

My Win-Win findings read out loud on The View (check it out at the 9:30 mark).

I promise to remember y’all now that I’ve come into my kingdom.