Press Release: Largest Celebration of Education Reform in U.S. History Begins January 24

January 22, 2016

For Immediate Release

Media Contact:
Steve Buckstein

503-242-0900 or


Cascade Policy Institute Plans Special Event to Celebrate National School Choice Week 2016

Portland, Oregon to play role in nation’s largest celebration of education reform


Portland, Ore. – Cascade Policy Institute will hold a special event in celebration of National School Choice Week 2016, organizers announced today. The event will shine a spotlight on the need to expand access to educational options for all children.

The event will take place at noon on Thursday, January 28, at Cascade Policy Institute. Cascade’s Founder and Senior Policy Analyst Steve Buckstein will discuss the latest school choice news and what’s happening in Oregon. The event is open to the public, but reservations are required.

“Oregon is behind the national school choice curve. It’s time we caught up, so all Oregon students can get the best education possible regardless of their zip code,” said Buckstein.

School choice means empowering parents with the freedom to choose the best educational environments for their children. The goal of National School Choice Week (NSCW) is to raise public awareness of all types of education options for children. These options include traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, online learning, private schools, and homeschooling.

Started in 2011, NSCW has grown into the world’s largest celebration of opportunity in education. The Week is a nonpartisan, nonpolitical public awareness effort and welcomes all Americans to get involved and to have their voices heard. Held every January, NSCW shines a positive spotlight on effective education options for every child.

National School Choice Week 2016 will be held January 24-30, 2016. The Week will be the largest series of education-related events in U.S. history:

  • 16,140 total events across all 50 states
  • 13,224 schools of all types are holding events
  • 808 homeschool groups are holding events
  • 1,012 chambers of commerce are holding events
  • 27 governors have issued proclamations recognizing School Choice Week in their states
  • More than 200 mayors and county leaders have issued School Choice Week proclamations
  • There will be rallies and special events at 20 state capitol buildings

“From 150 events in our inaugural year, 2011, to 5,500+ events in 2014, the impact of National School Choice Week has been nothing short of incredible,” said Andrew Campanella, National School Choice Week’s president.

“Thinking back to that first year, I am just overwhelmed at how much NSCW has grown, with so many different folks across the country shining in the positive spotlight of this effort. From students and parents and teachers to school leaders, elected officials, governors, mayors, state legislators, concerned citizens, education organizations and small businesses, National School Choice Week has truly brought people together to celebrate educational opportunity.”

By participating in National School Choice Week 2016, Cascade Policy Institute joins hundreds of organizations, thousands of groups, and millions of Americans in raising awareness about the need to empower parents with the ability to choose the best educational environments for their children.

Founded in 1991, Cascade Policy Institute is Oregon’s premier policy research center. Cascade’s mission is to explore and promote public policy alternatives that foster individual liberty, personal responsibility, and economic opportunity.

For more information, visit or visit


Policy Picnic – June 24, 2015

Please join us for our monthly Policy Picnic led by Cascade Senior Policy Analyst and Founder Steve Buckstein

Topic: Will the Oregon legislature let terminally ill Oregonians try to save their own lives?

Description: Twenty-one states have now passed “Right to Try” laws allowing terminally ill individuals the right to try experimental drugs not yet approved by the FDA. The Oregon House passed such a bill by a 59-0 vote in April, but it’s stalled in the Senate. Who opposed it, and why?

There is no charge for this event, but reservations are required as space is limited.

Admission is free. Please feel free to bring your own lunch.
Coffee and cookies will be served. 
Sponsored by:
Dumas Law Group

A Time for Choosing

Did you choose between a left or right in yesterday’s election? If that phrase sounds familiar, perhaps you watched an emerging leader utter it 50 years ago last week.

In 1964 an actor named Ronald Reagan gave what has become known simply as “The Speech” on behalf of his ill-fated Presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater.

The half-hour TV address, “A Time for Choosing,” wasn’t able to propel Goldwater to the Presidency, but it is credited with launching Reagan’s political career and his eventual landslide victory in 1980 against a sitting president, Jimmy Carter.

You can watch The Speech online. Here are two of my favorite lines:

“This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government, or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”


“You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down: [Up to] man’s age-old dream—the ultimate individual freedom consistent with law and order—or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.”

I didn’t fully appreciate these concepts then; I do now.

Surveying Government Planners Won’t Help

The State of Oregon is sending a survey to economic and community development “practitioners,” including city managers, county executives, elected officials, and local business owners. It asks what economic development projects the state should take on.

A state spokesman says, “We want stories and experiences and recommendations on how to get better.” Given that “free money” is always welcome, the inevitable huge response surely will be taken as a sign that finally the state can make the proper decisions about how to invest other people’s money, namely the taxpayers’.

Milton Friedman once said: “Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own.” When it’s your money, you make the best decisions you can because you not only reap the rewards, but you bear the losses when things don’t work out. However, when government officials spend taxpayer money, they simply don’t have the same incentives. They may have every intention of doing a good job, but whether they do or not they don’t personally earn the profits or suffer the losses. They simply send out another survey and try again some other time.

The best way to improve the economy of our state is to remove government planners from our personal and business lives. Then watch as our own freely made decisions in a self-organizing society and free-market economy do what they always do—cause our economy to flourish, grow, and create the kinds of progress central planners can never achieve.

Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

Drug Cartels, Not Cold Medicine Patients, Are the Enemy in Oregon’s Meth War

It seems that despite the best efforts of Oregon policymakers and law enforcement, methamphetamine (meth) abuse continues to ravage the Beaver State.

Recent media coverage has unveiled a newer, darker side of the Oregon drug scene—Mexican drug cartels trafficking meth into our state. In the past, they were a fringe sideshow; more meth was produced locally. That has changed. They are now the dominant supplier. And the meth problem has become less predictable, more expensive, harder to spot, and generally more violent.

The infiltration of drug cartels is the logical outcome of the state’s steady decline in local meth production. Since 2005, Oregon, along with surrounding Washington and California, began to see a drastic drop in the number of meth labs busted in the state. Compounding that trend, policymakers adopted a strict new law in 2006 that required residents to obtain a prescription in order to purchase cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine, a precursor to meth production. The impetus for the new restriction was the belief that by restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine, meth would be kept out of the hands of criminals, and meth abuse in our state would be impacted.

The outcome has turned out to be quite the opposite. As local meth production declined, generally for reasons separate from Oregon’s pseudoephedrine prescription law, violent Mexican drug cartels have been able to infiltrate so much of the state that they have become impossible to ignore. As was pointed out recently by The Oregonian in an exposé on the topic, the Mexican meth now flowing into the state has the added benefit of also being cheaper and more potent than any other meth on the market. As a result, meth abuse, and related meth crime, hasn’t decreased in the least. Indeed, the 2013 Oregon High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area’s Threat Assessment and Counter Drug Strategy report surveyed law enforcement across the state who said that meth remains the number-one cause of property crime and violent crime. Meanwhile, the Office of National Drug Control says that Oregon meth seizures have been trending upward since 2008; and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) conservatively estimates that 80% of the country’s meth now comes from over the southern border.

But all of these facts still don’t change the minds of those who are convinced that Oregon’s prescription laws for pseudoephedrine successfully cured the state of its meth problem. Oregon’s experience is referenced often as the model solution. Even a recent federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) study cites Oregon’s success in enacting proactive legislation as the reason for its progress. In reality, however, Oregon’s prescription law is not responsible for the state’s drop in meth labs, and its meth problem is anything but solved.

Last year, Cascade Policy Institute performed a study to determine whether Oregon’s prescription mandate was the reason for the state’s reduction in meth labs. The findings were enlightening. Our study concluded that while Oregon had seen a dramatic drop in meth labs between 2004 and 2010, it was not a result of a prescription mandate. We were able to draw that conclusion by looking at regional trends and timelines. Other western states including California and Washington saw similar declines without the passage of prescription laws. And by breaking the data down by year, we found that the vast majority of Oregon’s decline in meth production took place prior to the passage of any prescription law.

Our research was meticulous, reliable, and verifiable. It has since been confirmed by other researchers, including most recently by Siddharth Chandra of Michigan State University. Dr. Chandra conducted his own study in response to the above-mentioned GAO report, criticizing it for its methodology. Noting that the report fails to account for regional trends, he determines that the GAO falsely attributes a decline in meth labs to Oregon’s strict prescription laws. His conclusions are accurate and consistent with Cascade’s.

The fallacy of the Oregon experience has lived on long enough. It is time for policymakers across the country to understand that Oregon’s prescription law for pseudoephedrine has failed to achieve its goals. Meanwhile, honest Oregonians who simply want to buy effective cold medicine over the counter have been forced to suffer due to tight restrictions on their personal freedoms. If progress is to be made in the fight against methamphetamine abuse, an honest discussion must take place. It is time to admit the failure of prescription laws for pseudoephedrine.

Steve Buckstein is Founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

Press Release: Angry Protesters Reject Proposals for Employees’ Freedom to Choose

For Immediate Release

Media Contact

Patrick Schmitt,


Angry protesters reject proposals for
employees’ freedom to choose

Attendees and Speaker Harassed at Northwest Employee Freedom Event

VANCOUVER, Wa. – Several dozen union protesters marched outside Clark College’s Columbia Tech Center in Vancouver on Thursday evening. The hostile group tried to block attendees from entering the event venue scheduled to hold the first Northwest Employee Freedom One Night Event, jointly sponsored by Cascade Policy Institute of Portland, Oregon and The Freedom Foundation of Olympia, Washington.

After yelling, harassing, and shoving event attendees and organizers, protesters entered the venue and began shouting and using bullhorns to disrupt the event. The keynote speaker, Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s labor expert Vincent Vernuccio, was also spat on by a protester. The Vancouver Police Department was called and escorted protesters out of the event center. The two who refused to leave were arrested for trespassing.

This peaceful gathering of Washingtonians and Oregonians was meant to educate them on the story of how Michigan secured the freedom for all of its public and private sector employees to choose whether or not they want to be represented by a union without financial consequences.

“This kind of behavior is most saddening because it shows a real lack of understanding of what Cascade Policy Institute wants for Oregon,” said Cascade founder Steve Buckstein.

“We do not seek to end unions or union representation. We simply want all Oregonians to have the right to choose whether or not union membership and representation is something they desire for themselves,” he said. “All Oregonians deserve that right, even those who reject our efforts.”

“At the end of the day, this is a fight for freedom and justice. No amount of harassment or intimidation will change that fact,” he ended.

Photos from the event, including images of protesters and arrests, can be found here:


Cascade in the Capitol: Testimony in Opposition to More Subsidies of Student Higher Education Costs

State Treasurer Ted Wheeler has proposed that the state obligate its citizens to repay hundreds of millions of dollars in General Obligation bonds to subsidize student higher education costs. Below is the prepared testimony that I gave to a House committee last week and will give to a Senate committee tomorrow, setting out my objections to the plan:

I oppose HJR 6SB 11 and SJR 1 for several reasons.

First, as Professor Richard Vedder, author of the book “Going Broke By Degree: Why College Costs Too Much,” says, higher education prices are rising rapidly because of the predominant role of third-party payments, including federal and state support for institutions and students. “When some else is paying a lot of the bills, students are less sensitive to the price, thus allowing the colleges to care less about keeping prices under control.”

So, rather than help keep college costs and student debt levels down, Treasurer Wheeler’s proposal will likely do just the opposite.

That would be bad enough, but it will be worse because even if the investment assumptions for his proposal work out, taxpayers will be on the hook to repay hundreds of millions of dollars of bond principal, plus interest decades into the future.

Worse yet, there is evidence that more government funding of higher education actually translates to slower state economic growth. That’s likely because individuals know their needs better than politicians do, so leaving the money in private hands produces better economic results.

Further, academics such as Charles Murray and Carl Bankstron join Dr. Vedder in arguing that four-year degrees aren’t what they used to be, and that state funding may simply waste precious financial and human resources.

All that said, if increasing the percentage of Oregonians who earn two- and four-year degrees is a good goal, you should step back and look at efforts in other states to significantly reduce the cost of those degrees. Arthur Brooks recently noted in the New York Times that one idea gaining traction is the $10,000 college degree, which public universities in several states are moving toward right now. That’s $10,000 total direct costs for four years. According to Brooks, this “is exactly the kind of innovation we would expect in an industry that is showing every indication of a bubble that is about to burst.”

In conclusion, whatever the value of a college degree to an individual, it’s becoming clear that state funding of those degrees is likely to cost taxpayers more than they gain. I urge you to reject HJR 6, SB 11 and SJR 1.

Thank you.

How to End Poverty

President Johnson declared a “war on poverty” back in 1964 when the poverty rate was 19 percent. In the 48 years since, we’ve spent over 12 trillion tax dollars fighting poverty. The rate dipped below 11 percent in 1973, but is now back up over 15 percent. Forty-six million Americans are in poverty today. A new report from the Cato Institute, The American Welfare State, concluded that “clearly we have been doing something wrong.”


This year Cato finds that the federal gov­ernment will spend more than $668 billion on at least 126 different programs to fight poverty. State and local governments will spend an additional $284 billion. So, we’re spending nearly $1 trillion every year to fight poverty. That amounts to $20,610 for every poor person in America, or $82,440 for a family of four.


Yet, the government considers a family of four to be poor if its cash income falls below $23,050, which is less than one-third the amount taxpayers are spending to help them. Where does all that money go?


The solution seems simple. Instead of spending a trillion dollars every year fighting poverty, why not just cut checks to the poor and be done with it? We could raise every poor person out of poverty and still return hundreds of billions of dollars back to the taxpayers. And if we hurry, it could all be done by Thanksgiving.

Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

Oregon’s Status Quo Lobby: How Teachers Unions Retard Real Education Reform

Oregon’s public education system is beset with problems. Too many students drop out, and too many of those who stay aren’t achieving to the levels we expect. The national publication Education Week ranked Oregon’s public education system 43rd in the nation in 2011, and our K-12 achievement level only earned a D grade last year.[1]

Some people argue that more money will solve our schools’ problems. But with total expenditures now over $11,000 per public school student, according to the nation’s largest teachers union,[2] it’s hard to believe that $330,000 for each 30-student classroom is not enough money to get education right.

What happens in our public school system is driven more by politics than anything else, and for many years the most powerful political force driving education decisions in our state is what we call the Status Quo Lobby. While many children continue to fall through the cracks, this Lobby fights for more of the same: more powerless parents, more powerless principals, more hamstrung teachers, more taxpayer spending, and more control over the decisions parents should make for their own children.

Who is the Status Quo Lobby? Primarily, it’s the Oregon Education Association, the teachers union that represents most public school teachers in this state. The OEA is primarily concerned with the paychecks of its members, not with the achievement and success of Oregon schoolchildren. Unfortunately, what’s best for OEA members’ pocketbooks isn’t necessarily best for our kids’ education. Make no mistake, huge financial interests rest on the bulk of the laws for which they lobby. And, the Status Quo Lobby is often the biggest contributor to political campaigns in Oregon.

In a word, the Status Quo Lobby fights for more centralization, which Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman said is responsible for much of the decline in the public school system over the decades.

In 2006, the year he died, Friedman noted, “When I went to elementary school, a long, long time ago in the 1920s, there were about 150,000 school districts in the United States. Today there are fewer than 15,000, and the population is more than twice as large.”[3] Friedman blamed what he called “your friends in the teachers union” for this centralization and corresponding decline in educational results for America’s children.

The Status Quo Lobby has long claimed to lobby in the name of helping kids. But it itself typically has the most to win or lose―in terms of money and power―when it shows up to a hearing for proposed laws. While children’s futures are at stake, the choices legislators make today often have a delayed impact for kids. The Status Quo Lobby, however, often sees a quick impact to its bottom line.

Because far too many people seem to think these lobbyists are just in it “for the kids,” Cascade Policy Institute has launched a new website called “Enough with the Status Quo Lobby” at At this website, Oregonians can discover just who the Status Quo Lobby is, which policies it advocates, and what kinds of results are seen from these policies.

At this site Oregonians also can see just how the Status Quo Lobby stands in the way of real education reform, often labeled “school choice.” Milton Friedman first described school choice in 1955 as letting parents choose which schools their children attend―public, private, religious, or home school―with the money following the student.[4] Most Oregon parents want such choices,[5] and they shouldn’t let the Status Quo Lobby stand in their way.

To help educate voters on how to keep their legislators accountable for their voting on educational policies, the website includes a report card grading every legislator during the 2011 legislative session on their votes either supporting the Status Quo Lobby, or supporting school choice for Oregon’s children.

Oregonians also will be able to see how much money the Status Quo Lobby has contributed to each legislator’s campaigns, along with videos of them speaking on policies affecting the education of Oregon’s children.

We urge all Oregonians interested in learning about who is standing in the way of real educational reform in our state to go to and see for yourselves.



[1] Report Awards State Grades for Education Performance, Policy…, Education Week, January 11, 2011

2 National Education Association report Table F-2 (pg 39)

3 Teachers Unions and Public Schools: Who Needs ‘Em?,, Bob Sipchen, July 3, 2006

4 The Role of Government in Education, Milton Friedman, Economics and the Public Interest, 1955

5 Nearly Nine of Ten Oregonians Would Opt Out of Regular Public Schools, Cascade Policy Institute, Steve Buckstein, January 5, 2009

End Forced Unionism Now

The failed June 5th recall election of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was supposedly over collective bargaining reform, but syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer points out that the real battle was over ending automatic collection of union dues by government: “Without the thumb of the state tilting the scale by coerced collection, union membership became truly voluntary. Result? Newly freed members rushed for the exits. In less than one year, AFSCME, the second largest public-sector union in Wisconsin, has lost more than 50 percent of its membership.”

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels ended that practice in his state seven years ago, and 91 percent of public union members no longer pay dues. Then, on February 1st of this year, Daniels signed legislation making Indiana the 23rd Right to Work state so that no workers, public or private, can be forced to join a union or pay dues against their will.

The Walker recall failure shows that a politician can stand against forced unionism and still keep his job. It is time for Oregon politicians to take such stands. They should stop forcibly collecting union dues from unwilling workers. Then, they should make Oregon the 24th Right to Work state so all workers can keep their jobs without some third party coming between them and their employer.

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