More evidence for school choice

School choice improves academic outcomes and saves taxpayers money. What more could you want? Well, there is more: Choice improves performance of the public schools, lessens racial segregation, and “strengthens the shared civic values and practices essential to American democracy.”

A new report surveyed 51 empirical studies covering five policy areas:

  • Academic outcomes of choice participants
  • Academic outcomes of public schools
  • Fiscal impact on taxpayers
  • Racial segregation in schools
  • Civic values and practices

Almost every study found a positive effect, 5 found a neutral effect, and not a single study found a negative effect.

Before this empirical evidence existed, “there was some excuse for making policy based on speculation, anecdotal observation, and intuition. Today, the effects of these programs are known, and there is no longer any excuse for policymakers and opinion leaders to be ignorant of the facts.”

A 9-year old talks about the universe

Amazing. A million and a half views on YouTube. A nine-year old kid talks about multiverses, free will, the odds of intelligent life in the universe.

How did it happen? Part of the answer might be that the parents “treat their kids as if they’re intelligent young people, and not children who couldn’t possibly understand how the world (or universe) works.” These kids are encouraged to think out loud, to say what they think, even if they might be wrong.

(I thought I had posted this three weeks ago but apparently I forgot to push the Publish button. It’s a good thing the story is timeless.)

Down in Concord

“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” — Pericles (430 B.C.)

Down in Concord it is another quiet week. There are 47 bills with public hearings in the House or in the Senate. Most probably are not interesting to most people. I found four that are mildly interesting.

On Tuesday morning, the Senate has public hearings on two firearms bills. HB 135 restricts your right to defend yourself, your family, and your community. It says that if someone attacks you with deadly force, you may not use deadly force to defend yourself, if you can run away. So if you or your daughter is a young nurse walking through a dark parking lot, and a would-be rapist pulls out a knife, you should try to run away instead of pulling out your pistol. I expect a large crowd to oppose the bill.

The second firearms bill is HB 388, which says that if a thief steals a weapon from your house, you are not responsible for any damage the bad guy does with your weapon. That bill passed with a strong bipartisan vote in the House. The crowd on hand to oppose HB 135 probably will stay to support HB 388

Wednesday the Senate hears HB 595, which would repeal changes to photo identification requirements of voters that was passed just last year. By wide margins, voters approve of the requirement for a photo ID, so there might be a good crowd opposing this repeal bill.

Thursday the House Fish&Game committee will hold a public hearing on SB 122, establishing a commercial shrimp license. We have survived all these many years without needing a shrimp license. Thursday we will learn why some people think we really need yet another license.

…..

Some time ago a friend asked why I spend time on politics. Well, the fact is that politicians can have an enormous impact on our well-being. It’s not so much that they can do good but that they can do great harm. As Walter Williams puts it, “In general, presidents and congressmen have very limited power to do good for the economy and awesome power to do bad. The best good thing that politicians can do for the economy is to stop doing bad. In part, this can be achieved through reducing taxes and economic regulation, and staying out of our lives.”

A report from the government’s Small Business Administration estimates that the cost of federal regulations is $1.75 trillion. That works out to about $15,000 per family. Are you getting your money’s worth?

It wasn’t regulations that made us the greatest country on earth. It was freedom – the freedom for ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers, and Steve Jobs created entire industries that provided good jobs for tens of millions of people.

Today there are so many regulations that FedEx could not get off the groundSubway RestaurantsHome Depot, Whole Foods, and Wynn casinos might not exist at all if they had started in today’s regulatory environment.

Together these companies have over 800,000 employees. How much worse would our economy be without those jobs? without the goods and services they produce? How many of tomorrow’s giant companies are being killed today by excessive regulations?

An old American adage declares that “To err is human, but it takes a politician to really screw things up.” They certainly have screwed things up. The latest jobs report was just one more example. Almost half a million people gave up looking for a job. The labor force participation rate is the lowest since 1979.

Poverty is the worst since the mid-1960s. The number of people collecting food stamps is at record high levels. Median family income is down for four straight years.

The current so-called recovery is the worst in 70 years. Per capita income and employment are lower than they were at the start of the recession. If this economy had been merely average, we would now have a GDP per person more than $4500 higher and we would see more than 14 million more people employed.

Why do I spend time on politics? Because it matters. Bad economic policies produce the conditions we now suffer. Good policies produce growing economies.

Canada’s conservative government adopted principles of lower taxes, smaller government, and more decentralization of federal government powers. For the first time in history, the average Canadian is wealthier than the average American.

There is one set of economic policies that has worked every time it has been tried. Year after year, around the world, among the fifty states, one simple policy has produced greater prosperity, better life expectancy, a cleaner environment, and more human rights.

That policy is economic freedom.

That is not just theory or ideology; that is history. Nearly 20 years of analyzing 183 countries has consistently shown that more freedom produces higher per capita income, longer lifespans, and more “happiness”.

Sadly, the United States’ rank in the Index  of Economic Freedom has dropped every year since 2006. We have fallen from “Free” to “Mostly Free”.

For a better economy, we need to elect politicians who support property rights, limited government, less regulating, and free markets. It works every time it is tried.

Down in Concord

“You cannot adopt politics as a profession and remain honest.” — Ambrose Bierce
“Politics was never meant to be a profession.” — Duane Alan Hahn

Down in Concord, last week and next week seem fairly quiet, with no sessions either week. But it only seems quiet. The House and Senate finished acting on their own bills but now the surviving bills have crossed over – House bills to the Senate, Senate bills to the House – and the process starts all over.

The House started with 604 bills. It killed 248, passed 229, and “retained” 127. Just what is “retained”, you ask. Most bills are short, just a page or two long. And most bills are not brand new laws; they are modifications to existing laws. So most of the text of a bill is the current law with changes marked to show how the law would read if the bill is passed. It usually doesn’t take long to understand what a bill will do.

Some bills are longer and take more time to understand. Sometimes a bill is short and easy to understand but members are uncertain as to whether it is good or bad. Often they want to study what other states do in their laws, or read some analyses. When a committee wants more time to consider a bill it asks the full House to retain the bill. The committee works on the bill in the Spring and Fall, makes a recommendation in late Fall, and the House votes next January.

The Senate started with 202 bills. It killed 36, passed 147, and rereferred 19. “Rereferred” is the Senate’s word for “retained”. What surprised me in these numbers is that the Senate passed a much, much higher percentage of its bills than did the House. In the House the numbers killed and passed were roughly equal, and that was my impression also from the last two years. The Senate passed four times as many as it killed. I have not looked at previous bienniums (biennia?) to see if this is normal for the Senate.

Now the House is dealing with the 147 bills that passed the Senate and the Senate is dealing with the 229 bills that passed the House. The Senate now has more work to do in less time than at the start of the year – and three of those bills are the huge budget bills. The House has many fewer bills than it started the year with, so it will have some time to deal with its retained bills.

So, now that I have bored you with some of the arcane details of how our legislature does its work, what is happening next week? Not much. Down in Concord it’s fairly quiet. What!? Did I just waste four hundred words and precious minutes of your time only to repeat what I said in the beginning?

Okay, it’s not all that quiet. The House has 47 public hearings; the Senate 15. Every bill is interesting to someone, but most of these bills will be interesting to fairly few people. There are three bills that might be interesting to more than a few people – possibly even to a great many people.

The Senate is hearing HB 399, establishing the New Hampshire liberty act. This bill passed the House with an overwhelming bi-partisan vote because many people on both sides of the aisle are outraged by an assault on our rights. The federal National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2012 authorizes the arrest and indefinite detention without trial of American citizens on American soil. HB 399 declares that the NDAA violates many Constitutional rights, prohibits the State of New Hampshire from participating in any such arrests, and urges the Attorney General to file suit challenging the Constitutionality of that law.

The House has a public hearing on SB 126, a special interest bill for car dealers. Auto manufacturers require as part of their contracts with dealers that the dealers periodically do things that the car dealers say are stupid, that cost lots of money, and that don’t help sell cars. The car dealers don’t like these contracts and are asking the legislature to change the law to make parts of their contracts illegal. Gee, I wonder if ordinary people could get a law making parts of our contracts illegal, e.g. an auto purchase agreement is illegal unless it includes lifetime gasoline and free service?

House leaders expect a huge crowd for the hearing on SB 152, authorizing Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas to build one casino in Salem, NH. That is not precisely what the bill states but it might as well be. The wording, said to have been written by Millennium’s lobbyists, is so restrictive and the bill has such tight deadlines that it is impossible for any other potential casino company to compete against Millennium.

Members of both parties are divided on the general question of casino gambling. On specifically this bill, some members are asking, “How come only Salem? How about Manchester or how about the North Country?” Other members oppose the idea of granting a monopoly to one specific company. If gambling is a good thing then allow it anywhere; if it is bad prohibit it everywhere. If this bill is passed, it will be legal to play poker at the casino, but illegal to play poker in your own home.

Education: administrators way up, scores flat

From 1950 to 2009 the number of students increased 96%. During that same time the number of administrators increased more than 700%. Zero improvement in scores or in graduation rates. Those are just a few items from a report by the Friedman Foundation for School Choice.

New Hampshire is one of 21 states that have more non-teaching staff than teachers. From 1992 to 2009, the number of NH students has increased a modest 12%; the number of non-teaching staff has grown 80%. If administrators had increased only as fast as students, NH would save almost $250 million EVERY year. That would be more than $31,000 for every classroom.