Author: christina martin

Indiana Court Upholds School Choice Program, Invites Hope for Oregon’s Kids

On March 26, the Indiana Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion holding that the state’s Choice Scholarship Program is constitutional. Indiana’s voucher program is one of the most expansive school choice reforms in the country, permitting any child eligible for free or reduced-price lunch to receive a voucher to attend a private school―whether or not the school is religious. The Choice Scholarship Program is only two years old, but already 9,324 low- and middle-income families are participating.

A group of state taxpayers funded by a teachers’ union filed suit against the program in May 2011. Meredith v. Daniels alleged that the voucher program violates the IndianaConstitution, which requires the state “to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools.” The plaintiffs claimed that allowing students to choose a private school violated this duty. (A similar argument overturned Florida’s opportunity scholarship program in 2006.) However, the Indiana Supreme Court rejected this argument, noting that it was inconsistent with the plain text of the state’s constitution.

The plaintiffs also alleged that the voucher program violated the state constitution’s provision forbidding the state from compelling individuals to support “any place of worship” or “ministry,” and another provision forbidding the state from drawing money from the treasury for the benefit of a religious or theological institution.* (However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris in 2002 that Ohio’s voucher program does not violate the establishment clause in the U.S. Constitution, undercutting the argument that institutions, rather than parents, are the primary beneficiaries.)

The Indiana Supreme Court rejected the “religious support” arguments, noting that government expenditures frequently benefit religious institutions. “[F]or example, fire and police protection, municipal water and sewage service” all benefit religious institutions:

“Certainly religious or theological institutions may derive relatively substantial benefits from such municipal services. But the primary beneficiary is the public, both the public affiliated with the religious or theological institution, and the general public.”

The court explained that such benefits were ancillary to the substantial benefits received by families:

“The direct beneficiaries under the voucher program are the families of eligible students and not the schools selected by the parents for their children to attend. The voucher program does not directly fund religious activities because no funds may be dispersed to any program eligible school without the private, independent selection by the parents of a program-eligible student. Participation in the voucher program is entirely voluntary for parents of eligible students.”

The Indiana Supreme Court’s interpretation of its state constitution in favor of parents’ directing their children’s education should encourage families in other states across the country. Vouchers, education tax credits, and opportunity scholarship programs have demonstrated repeatedly that children benefit from educational choice. Oregon has some limited forms of school choice, including over 100 charter schools and open enrollment among some public schools; but Oregon parents still deserve better. Hopefully, victories like Indiana’s will provide support for states like Oregon to recognize the right of parents to choose options for their children beyond their local public school.

* Oregon’s constitution has a nearly identical provision, stating: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any religeous [sic], or theological institution.” Anti-school-choice groups in Oregon have used the same arguments against proposals for voucher or tax credit funded scholarship programs.

Christina Martin is an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation, a nonprofit legal foundation devoted to litigating for freedom, property rights, and individual rights, including school choice. She is a former policy analyst for Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research center.

 

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Parent Power – Oregon’s Open Enrollment Law Puts Parents and Children First

The 2012-2013 school year will be the first year that the new statewide open enrollment law takes effect. The new law (HB 3681) allows Oregon parents to enroll their kids in any Oregon public school district, as long as the receiving district is accepting transfers. This will stop local districts from holding students captive to their local school, as currently often happens throughout the state.

This is an exciting opportunity for families who live in a district that doesn’t meet their kids’ individual needs. Though such families already can choose public charter schools, many charter schools have long waiting lists, and district-created obstacles make it hard for existing or new charter schools to meet that need. Opening district boundaries will allow regular public schools to better meet more children’s needs.

Some district leaders have made apocalyptic predictions that this will shatter those public schools that are already struggling financially. They claim that those districts that experience a significant exodus will consequently struggle even more at providing remaining students with a quality education.

This is a red herring – the same one that has been used to oppose public charter schools. The truth is that only state funds will follow a student into neighboring districts under this open enrollment law (not local funds), allowing the district to spend more per remaining student.

After decades of increasing funding in Oregon, we spent an average of about $10,500 per public student in the 2009-2010 school year according to the NEA’s Rankings & Estimates, which doesn’t include the additional $1,000 per student spent on debt service. That is significantly greater than just 20 years ago. And yet, the outcome has not improved.

A similar story can be found across our nation. Throwing money at the problem is not working. Developed countries that spend significantly less than the United States are outperforming us – countries like New Zealand and Finland.

None of this is surprising to those who understand how markets (and politics) work. Public schools are usually monopolies with a captive consumer base – assigned students and funds based on where a child lives, not on the merits of the school.

For comparison, imagine if food stamp recipients were only allowed to shop at a locally assigned grocery store – a store dedicated solely to Oregon Trail card purchases. It’s no mystery in the marketplace that monopolies typically provide worse service at higher prices. The open enrollment law, by analogy, is the equivalent of allowing food stamp recipients to shop at any of the hypothetical Oregon Trail assigned grocery stores, not just the closest one to their residence. Universal school choice (allowing funds to follow a student to any school, public or private) would be the equivalent of how food stamp holders currently use their Oregon Trail cards – that is, shopping at virtually any type of grocery store.

As charter schools and voucher programs across the nation have witnessed, the kids who benefit most from increased educational options are those who currently have the fewest: low-income and middle-class students.

To take advantage of Oregon’s new open enrollment law, parents must alert the district to which they want their child to transfer by April 1, giving districts ample time to plan for changes in enrollment. As kids benefit from this new law, we will all see that this law is no apocalypse for education – although it could be the beginning of the end of monopoly control over the education of Oregon children.

 

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What does Oregon's new open enrollment law mean for your child?

WHAT THE LAW DOES

The new statewide open enrollment law will take effect in the 2012–2013 school year. The new law allows Oregon parents to enroll their kids in any Oregon public school district, as long as the receiving district is accepting transfers. No longer will the student’s resident school district be able to block a student’s transfer to another district. Families who live inside a district that decides to accept transfers will get first priority to transfer their children to other in-district schools. Siblings of students who are considered residents of the district will get second priority.

HOW CAN YOU TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS NEW LAW?

Districts will announce how many transfers they will accept by March 1. By April 1 parents must request a transfer from the district they would like their child to attend for the 2012-2013 school year. Districts must notify parents if their transfer requests are accepted by May 1.

HOW LONG WILL MY CHILD BE ABLE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OPEN ENROLLMENT?

The open enrollment law is set to expire in the summer of 2017, except for children who are already taking advantage of the law. Once a child is accepted into another district under this law, he or she will be considered a resident of that district until he or she graduates, enrolls in another district, or becomes ineligible because of age or expulsion. Parents should note that after one year of using the program, the receiving district can transfer students to another school within that district, provided that it is in line with district policy. (Districts cannot single out certain students for transfer, nor can they give preference to new out-of-district transfers.)

WHAT IF THE SCHOOL LIMITS HOW MANY TRANSFERS IT WILL ACCEPT?

Similar to current public charter school enrollment rules, the school will not be allowed to discriminate among transfers. If not enough slots are available for all students requesting transfers, the district will hold a lottery.

WHAT ABOUT TRANSPORTATION?

Parents are responsible for getting their child to an existing bus line within the district the child transfers to. Districts are allowed to provide transportation scholarships for low-income families or special bus lines, if they desire. For more information, contact the district into which you want to transfer your child.

WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE?

To learn more, you can contact the district you would like your child to attend, or read the bill that created open enrollment at http://gov.oregonlive.com/bill/2011/HB3681/.

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Testimony to House Committee on unemployment accounts

Click here to listen to the testimony. Christina Martin’s testimony to the House Interim Committee on Business and Labor starts at 41:00.

 

Co-Chair Garrett, Co-Chair Kennemer, members of the Committee:

 

My name is Christina Martin. I am a policy analyst with Cascade Policy Institute.

 

I am here today to talk about unemployment accounts. The heart of the unemployment account concept is that incentives matter.

 

In 1991, Michael Sherraden published Assets and the Poor: A New American Welfare Policy, which sparked an entire movement of non-profit and government funded programs.  In his work, Sherraden showed how the key to getting ahead is not so much income as it is in building assets or wealth. Assets, as you know, include savings, homes, cars, and intangible things like human capital.

 

Sherraden observed, as many did in the 90s, that decades of welfare had largely failed to help individuals leave poverty, and instead had created cycles of poverty and government dependance by creating disincentives to success. For example, welfare discouraged asset accumulation by limiting how much savings an eligible individual could have. This encouraged people to think hand to mouth, and day to day, not long term. Sherraden and others’ observations helped stoke some good reforms, but much of that problem still exists today.

 

One intriguing result of Sherraden’s asset building movement was the creation of matched savings accounts called Individual Development Accounts. When an eligible individual saves a dollar in an Individual Development Account, a non-profit (often government subsidized) will match the savings, with usually one or two dollars. The savings can later be used to buy a home, start a business or go to school. In other words, the savings can only be used for the purpose of investing in certain important assets.

 

These accounts have proven that people with very small incomes can and will save when the incentives are strong. And it has led to life-changing choices – like buying a house, starting a business, or going to school.

 

Government programs tend to focus on income levels. But assets not only provide financial security, they actually can change the way people behave. Decades of research have shown that asset owners tend to lead more stable lives, think in longer time frames and have more hope for the future. They are also more likely to be involved in community affairs and to plan for their children’s futures.

 

The children of asset owners are more likely to succeed in school and to escape poverty. The effect of assets on education and test scores is more significant than that of income. Research by the Center for Social Development shows that most likely owning assets actually causes individuals to have greater expectations and, in turn, those expectations cause them to accumulate more assets.

 

One main focus of the asset building community has been to get rid of some of the asset limits that discourage saving. Similar to asset limits, government programs themselves, like unemployment insurance, cause individuals to save less.

 

Government safety nets themselves decrease the amount individuals feel they need to save. This effect is very strong with unemployment insurance.

Economists Eric Engen and Jonathan Gruber found that unemployment insurance decreases private savings for the typical unemployment spell by up to one-half.  Some may argue that this is not a problem since these workers may need less precautionary savings because of the government safety-net. But such a simplistic answer neglects the importance of owning an asset to individuals’ psychological well being.

 

Of course, unemployment insurance has more problems than just discouraging savings.

 

Last month, an owner of a bakery near Medford, Oregon told me about some of the problems his company faced due to the disincentives in Oregon’s unemployment insurance system. Two years ago, in the middle of the recession, this entrepreneur offered a job to a man who responded that he would not be able to start work for another month. Why? Because his unemployment benefits did not run out until then.

This example is one of many stories I’ve heard about the incentive problems created by unemployment insurance.  I had a friend who only applied for highly competitive jobs that she knew she had little chance of getting. She really preferred to stay on unemployment benefits. She was expecting her child to be born soon, and it didn’t seem make sense to start a new job, particularly since her husband was gainfully employed.

Peer reviewed research shows that people receiving unemployment benefits commonly take longer to find a job. Unemployed workers who receive benefits take more than twice the time to find a job than those who do not. The instances of recipients finding a job increase strikingly just before UI benefits are exhausted (see graph) That does NOT mean that individuals who use unemployment benefits are dishonest, lazy, or bad. It DOES mean that incentives and logic play roles in their job searches. A new job is not only work, but it is full of risks and uncertainty. In some cases, a new job may pay less than unemployment benefits.

Unemployment benefits come with certain requirements precisely because of these incentive issues. Workers must actively search for work and accept appropriate full-time employment. However, requirements are frequently ignored or misunderstood. A U.S. Department of Labor report showed overpayments in unemployment benefits across the nation amount to almost $19 billion in waste.

Beating the national average of 11%, Oregon overpaid an estimated $392 million over the last three years―about 12.2% of all state unemployment benefits paid during that period, according to the Labor Department. About one third of overpayments involved workers receiving benefits when ineligible because they were not available for work or because they failed their work search requirements.

So what’s the solution?

Chile’s unemployment insurance savings accounts have cut back on the disincentives that slow the job search for many who receive unemployment benefits. Chile’s workers and employers pay a portion of wages into Unemployment Insurance Savings Accounts. Each worker has his or her own account. When a worker becomes unemployed for any reason (even if it is voluntary), he or she may draw from the personal unemployment account. Workers who are laid off with small account balances receive help from a more traditional unemployment insurance safety net. When they retire, workers may use any remaining balance in their unemployment accounts

Chile’s experience is demonstrating that these accounts create an improved safety net that also improves some of the disincentives within the U.S. system. The personal accounts system motivates workers to return to work faster so they can have more money upon retirement. This system may not solve all overpayment problems, but it would prevent a significant portion of overpayments, since ultimately workers are first paid from their own accounts first.

Chile’s system also broadens the pool of eligible recipients, since workers own their personal accounts. That means workers who cannot accept full-time employment (like a working mother or student) and workers who quit their jobs for personal or professional reasons (who are not covered under our current system) would have more coverage under Chile’s system.

The question is then, not whether unemployment accounts can make things better, but rather what kind of unemployment account system would improve things for Oregon workers and businesses. Bill will discuss that more.

As you listen, please consider that this is about more than some pragmatic improvement to an old system.

This is about taking a system that has bad incentives and that teachers bad lessons, and turning it into something with healthier and more natural incentives. Remember that merely possessing a savings account can transform how people think. Studies by people like Sherraden have shown that building savings can actually cause people to make better decisions and think in longer terms. So the impact of something like this extends far beyond merely dollars and cents, into hearts and minds.

 

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Christina Martin talks with Victoria Taft about Government Anesthesia

Listen to Christina Martin as she talks with Portland radio host, Victoria Taft, about school choice and its parallels to health and pain.

Christina Martin talks with Victoria Taft about Government Anesthesia

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Christina Martin discusses Control Cometh Before the Fall of Education

Policy Analyst Christina Martin discusses her latest commentary on a desire for control leading to the fall of education.

Click here to see her full commentary.

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Government Anesthesia

Nobody likes pain, but we need it. This may sound counterintuitive or cruel when you are suffering with an injury or illness, but severe dangers accompany a life without pain. A rare genetic disorder renders some people incapable of feeling pain, heat, or cold. Life for them is full of unexpected dangers, particularly for children, who frequently injure themselves, even biting through their own lips or tongues. More than we appreciate, pain protects us. It teaches us to avoid harmful behaviors and to pursue beneficial ones. Avoiding future pain is an incentive to be hardworking, frugal, kind to our family and neighbors, and even to maintain good health.

While policymakers and politicians may mean well, government programs like ill-conceived entitlements, tax breaks, and mandates wrought with perverse incentives numb the beneficiaries against pain, working against healthy incentives. Consider the most recent economic crises. Why would companies that received massive government bailouts choose to avoid the bad practices that got them into trouble in the first place? What incentive do they have to change if government guarantees a painless outcome?

Pain is an important part of life that should work to correct some of our most harmful behaviors. But if we’re too numb to feel the consequences of our decisions, then like those children, we may find we have seriously damaged our lives, our economy, and our society before we recognize the need to change what we are doing.

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Christina Martin talks with Victoria Taft on Control Cometh Before the Fall of Education

Christina Martin talks with Victoria Taft on her latest commentaries about control in education and starting the new year by cutting red tape!

Christina Martin talks Control Cometh Before the Fall of Education

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Cut the Red Tape: Give the Economy a Fresh Start in 2012

Americans live in a regulatory minefield.

Consider the tens of thousands of statutes, regulations, and court precedents that affect nearly every aspect of your life: The United States Code is 50 volumes; the Code of Federal Regulations is 150,000 pages; State laws, administrative rules, and city codes add tens of thousands more pages. Add the myriad court interpretations of these rules, and you understand why the U.S. has more than 1.2 million active attorneys.

Most of these rules have nothing to do with protecting your rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Most have everything to do with limiting your choices: what kind of home you can live in or business you can start; forms you must file and licenses you must acquire; taxes you must pay; the goods, food, and medicine you can buy; and much more.

Why should we have so many rules? Laws, when rightly established, prevent us from harming each other. But when wrongly established, they keep us from living freely and smother the lamp of creative invention and entrepreneurship. John Quincy Adams wrote, “[T]he laws of man may bind him in chains, or may put him to death, but they never can make him wise, virtuous, or happy.”

Instead of heaping more regulations on us, legislators should cut red tape so individuals and businesses can reach their potential in freedom.

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Control Cometh Before the Fall of Education

The desire to be in charge is as human as pride. It’s easy to see it in others. We scoff at arrogant, controlling dictators. We criticize parents who use guilt to influence their grown-up children. We commiserate about friends who manipulate others to get what they want.

Yet, when it comes to politics, we tend to think our leaders must have some unusually evil intention when they pass laws that conflict with our values. But politicians are just people. The consequences of their human defects, because of their position and power, just reach farther.

People often try to control others because they think they know what’s best. Their intentions feel like love, though they may really be driven by fear or distrust. Similarly, most individuals in power whom I’ve gotten to know genuinely feel that by controlling others they are helping people and making the world better. It’s a proud presumption, as familiar as that feeling of superiority we all experience when passing judgment on others for their choices.

The presumption says: “I can make better choices for you than you can make for yourself.” Whether or not that is true, only the government―not overbearing relatives or unpleasant friends―truly has the power to enforce its choices. And nowhere are issues of government control more contentious―and the consequences far-reaching―than in children’s education.

Education policy affects every child, and all sides of the debate trumpet kids’ interests as the heart behind their cause. And most sides believe it. With parents, the argument tends to orbit around values, that is, whose values should be taught in public schools. This struggle to decide whose values should be taught can be seen in states as different as Texas and California.

Rather than controlling how others’ children should be taught, those decisions should be removed from the political realm and returned where they belong―with the family. Each parent should be able to choose a school that offers the kind of education they want for their kids. That is the beauty of “school choice.”

Arguments for school choice usually focus on how empowering parents through education scholarships or vouchers, tax credits, and digital learning programs create scientifically proven gains in math, science, and reading. But its most virtuous effect is on human dignity.

School choice is the only means by which society can respect parents’ rights to raise their children. Parents have a natural right to raise their kids according to their values and to shelter them from an overwhelming barrage of bureaucratic mandates and politically sanctioned value systems. Likewise, school choice is the only means of reform which gives harbor to teachers and school administrators from that same hurricane of red tape that keeps so many of them from fully channeling their talents and passions to prepare kids for life.

The argument I most consistently hear from opponents of school choice is that many parents are unable to make good decisions for their kids. Thus, the most vulnerable children will suffer. However, this argument has been proven wrong in empirical studies that show regular public schools improve with vouchers that allow kids to attend private schools. Yet, that is not why we should support school choice. We should support school choice because we respect freedom itself. We should support school choice because we respect the rights of parents to do their best for their kids.

Those who fear that school choice will leave vulnerable children more vulnerable shouldn’t in the name of love or compassion empower the state to curtail parents’ ability to choose. Rather than cater to our natural arrogance and wrongly call it “loving our neighbors,” why not instead practice real love? Real love demands freedom to choose to love and to sacrifice. If you see something wrong, go out and change it through human relationships―by loving your neighbors, not by stealing their liberties. Talk to your neighbor’s kids. Volunteer to tutor a friend of your family. Support parents who are struggling. Change the hearts and minds of those close to you with the sweat of your brow, not with the cold impersonal hand of government regulations.

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Taking Work Personally: How Individual Accounts Reward Personal Responsibility

Recently, I had a long conversation with an owner of a bakery near Medford, Oregon. He told me of the problems his company faced due to the disincentives inherent in Oregon’s unemployment insurance system. Two years ago, in the middle of the recession, this entrepreneur offered a job to a man who promptly responded that he would not be able to start work for another month. Why? Because his unemployment benefits did not run out until then.

This example is one of the more troubling stories I’ve heard about the problems created by unemployment insurance. Most are less dramatic. A friend of mine only applied for highly competitive jobs she knew she had little chance of getting. She really preferred to stay on benefits. She was expecting her child to be born soon, and it didn’t make sense to start a new job, particularly since her husband was gainfully employed.

Peer reviewed research shows that people receiving unemployment benefits commonly take longer to find a job. Unemployed workers who receive benefits take more than twice the time to find a job than those who do not. The instances of recipients finding a job increase strikingly just before UI benefits are exhausted (see graph below). That doesn’t mean individuals who use unemployment benefits are dishonest, lazy, or bad. It does mean that incentives and logic play roles in their job searches. A new job is not only work, but it is full of risks and uncertainty. In some cases, a new job may pay less than unemployment benefits.

Unemployment benefits come with certain requirements precisely because of these incentive issues. Workers must actively search for work and accept appropriate full-time employment. However, requirements are frequently ignored or misunderstood. A U.S. Department of Labor report showed overpayments in unemployment benefits across the nation amount to almost $19 billion in waste. Beating the national average of 11%, Oregon overpaid an estimated $392 million over the last three years―about 12.2% of all state unemployment benefits paid during that period, according to the Labor Department. About one third of overpayments involved workers receiving benefits when ineligible because they were not available for work or because they failed their work search requirements.

The Labor Department’s report only examined the improper payments within state programs, which usually last up to 26 weeks. These figures do not include federal unemployment benefit extensions that currently allow many workers to claim up to 99 weeks (almost two years) of benefits.

So what’s the solution?

Chile’s unemployment insurance savings accounts have cut back on the disincentives that slow the job search for many who receive unemployment benefits. Chile’s workers and employers pay a portion of wages into Unemployment Insurance Savings Accounts. Each worker has his or her own account. When a worker becomes unemployed for any reason (even if it is voluntary), he or she may draw 30-50% of the previous wage for up to five months from the personal unemployment account. Workers who are laid off with small account balances receive help from a more traditional unemployment insurance safety net. At the end of their careers, workers may keep any balance in their unemployment accounts for use in retirement.

Chile’s experience demonstrates that these accounts offer an improved safety net that also improves some of the disincentives within the U.S. system. The personal accounts system motivates workers to return to work faster so they can have more money upon retirement. Chile’s system also broadens the pool of eligible recipients, since workers own their personal accounts. That means workers who cannot accept full-time employment (like a working mother or student) and workers who quit their jobs for personal or professional reasons (who are not covered under our system) would have some limited coverage under Chile’s system. This system may not solve all overpayment problems, but it would prevent a significant portion of overpayments, since ultimately workers are first paid from their own accounts.

One recent state-specific study (commissioned by Cascade Policy Institute) by economists Stéphane Pallage and Christian Zimmerman showed that switching to a system similar to Chile’s unemployment accounts system would benefit 97% of Oregonians. Even those who are most likely to be unemployed or most likely to have empty personal accounts would benefit from the switch. According to the economic model used, such a system would decrease the unemployment component of payroll taxes while improving outcomes for nearly everyone.

Oregon’s unemployment insurance system is rife with waste because it promotes longer unemployment and has inordinately high overpayment rates. Unemployment accounts would be a huge step in the right direction, improving incentives and rewarding hard work and personal responsibility while still maintaining the safety net that most Americans have grown accustomed to.

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Blended Learning: Making Technology Work for Students

In the Nation’s Digital Learning Report Card, Oregon received great marks for our state’s full-time online programs and access to blended learning in Oregon’s public charter schools. Oregon received low marks in the national Report Card for failing to make online classes available to public school students on a course-by-course basis. Oregon has also failed to incorporate blended (or hybrid) learning on any notable scale.

In a blended learning environment, “[S]tudents can learn in an online or computer-based environment part of the day and in traditional classroom, even one-on-one tutoring, for part of the day – essentially the best of both worlds combined into one education.” There are many exciting examples of how this is working in classes around our nation.

This video shows the incredible opportunity that most of Oregon’s students are missing out on. Hopefully, such opportunities soon will be coming to a classroom near you:

The Fundamentals of Blended Learning from Education Elements on Vimeo.

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Education Savings Accounts Multiply Options for Kids

Kids do better when their parents have the freedom to choose the right kind of educational program for them, without regard to whether the program is public or private. Nine out of ten gold standard social science studies showed that vouchers improve student outcome, and 18 out of 19 showed that they positively impact regular public schools. The remaining studies showed no impact.

But vouchers still limit options. Sometimes home school or a combination of public or private school, tutoring, and home school may be the right fit. Additionally, if set too low or too high, vouchers can limit student options or artificially inflate the cost of education.

The solution? Education savings accounts, which are now available to special needs kids in Arizona. Under the new program, if a child with special needs leaves public school, a portion of the state per-pupil funding will go into a personal education savings account. The money can be used for private school tuition, online courses, tutoring, or home school curriculum. Any unspent money can be used for college within four years of high school graduation.

Such a program harnesses the benefits of vouchers, while tapping into the psychological and financial benefits of asset building. Of children who expect to one day graduate from a four-year college, those with savings accounts are six times more likely to attend college by the time they are 23.

It is time that Oregon extend such educational opportunities to our students.

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Make the Grade with Online Options

Kids today learn how to use a computer or a video game system before they can even read or write, yet states are not taking advantage of this kind of technology in education, according to the Nation’s Digital Learning Council.

The Council released the first Nation’s Digital Learning Report Card last month, evaluating states on their adoption of healthy policies to help kids get more out of their education through online courses and materials.

Oregon received high marks for our state’s full-time online programs, thanks to online public charter schools. Charter schools are privately run public schools, in which parents can choose to enroll their children regardless of their residential district. Oregon’s online charter schools are growing quickly, but they still serve only about one percent of public school students.

Meanwhile, Oregon received low marks in the national Report Card for failing to make online classes available to public school students on a course-by-course basis. Yet, the need for such options is undeniable.

Consider that 75% of Oregon schools fail to offer students Advanced Placement or IB classes in reading, math, science, and social studies. Contrast that with states like Florida, where thousands of kids attending regular public schools that don’t offer in-house AP courses can access effective online advanced courses, as well as courses designed to help them catch up with their peers.

Oregon’s legislature will soon consider online learning again, since it commissioned a task force to examine governance for online charter schools. But instead of focusing on how to govern our state’s successful online charter schools, legislators should focus on removing the barriers that keep so many children from the valuable online opportunities available to kids in other states and nations.

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Personal Health Accounts Empower Medicaid Recipients

As Michael Sherraden pointed out 20 years ago in his book Assets and the Poor: A New American Welfare Policy, the key to getting ahead is not income but assets. People play better and smarter when they have a stake in the system.

According to research, assets not only provide financial security, but they cause people to lead more stable lives, think in longer time frames, be more involved in community affairs, and have more hope for the future.

While many government programs discourage asset accumulation, causing low-income individuals to miss the psychological and tangible benefits of asset building, some states are trying a new approach. South Carolina is testing personal health accounts in a pilot project for Medicaid recipients. Participants get high-deductible insurance paired with savings accounts for medical expenses that aren’t covered by insurance, all funded by Medicaid. When program recipients increase their income and no longer qualify for Medicaid, they keep the balance in their health accounts.

The program realizes the benefits that higher income individuals (and businesses) have already seen from switching to high deductible insurance paired with health savings accounts: People make smarter decisions about what health care they need or want when they have “skin in the game.” That “skin” is the balance of their health savings account.

Isn’t it time that Oregon think outside the box to incorporate asset building into its safety nets?

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PRESS RELEASE: National digital report card finds Oregon needs more online learning opportunities

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 13, 2011

Contact:

Christina Martin
Policy Analyst, School Choice Project Director
Cascade Policy Institute
Phone: (503) 242-0900
E-Mail: christina@cascadepolicy.org

National digital report card finds Oregon needs more online learning opportunities

PORTLAND, Ore.- Today, Digital Learning Now! released the first Nation’s Digital Learning Report Card along with the Roadmap for Reform. Cascade Policy Institute joins those calling for policymakers to take bold action to bring education into the 21st century.

“Kids today learn how to use a computer or a video game system before they can even read or write,” said Christina Martin, policy analyst at the Cascade Policy Institute. “But the sad fact is that not even 10 percent of schools take advantage of this kind of technology in education.”

The new report provides a comprehensive guide to help governors, state education chiefs, state lawmakers and policymakers adopt bold reforms to transform education for the digital age.

“Digital learning provides unprecedented opportunity for delivering rigorous and personalized educational material,” said Martin. “With this report, policymakers across the nation will be better able to see how to incorporate this technology into their schools.”

Among the elements of high quality learning, Oregon received higher marks for its strong full-time online programs, primarily thanks to its online charter schools, and a 2011 bill that ended several enrollment restrictions.

However, it received many low marks for lacking opportunities for students to take online classes on a course-by-course basis. Many students across the state still do not have this opportunity.

“Cascade Policy Institute strongly supports increasing educational options for kids. Online learning is one very important option where we have seen great inroads. But there is still more work to be done, particularly to increase access for part-time online programs and blended learning,” said Steve Buckstein, who founded Cascade Policy Institute in 1991 to advocate for more school choice for Oregon’s students.

Released this afternoon at the National Summit on Education Reform 2011, held by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, the Roadmap for Reform provides the nuts-and-bolts policies that states need to transition to a student-centered education that prepares students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and careers.  Each state also received a report card that assesses current laws and policies and their alignment to the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning.

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About Cascade Policy Institute

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. To that end, the Institute publishes policy studies, provides public speakers, organizes community forums and sponsors educational programs.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Christina Martin at 503-242-0900 or christina@cascadepolicy.org.

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Oregon’s $392 Million Unemployment Mistake

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, almost $19 billion in state unemployment benefits were paid in error over the last three years. Oregon paid an estimated $392 million in error ― about 12.2% of all state unemployment benefits paid during that period.

The Labor Department’s report only examined the mispayments within state programs, which usually last up to 26 weeks. These figures do not include the federal unemployment benefit extensions that allow many workers to claim up to 99 weeks (almost two years) of unemployment benefits.

While Oregon’s Employment Department recovers some mispayments, quarterly statements show that the majority is not recovered. The current federal-state system provides little incentive to state agencies to reduce administrative costs, fraudulent claims, or other payments in error.

Unemployment insurance is not unique in its problems. Reports abound of fraud, waste, and abuse in most areas of government. Consider the $100 billion lost annually in Medicare and Medicaid fraud, the $600 million paid to deceased federal employees, and the expensive Solyndra scandal. No wonder a recent Gallup poll showed Americans believe that government wastes half of all tax dollars.

Government is a poor substitute for personal accountability. Individuals provide far better accountability to each other and to themselves than government programs can. That’s why markets bring us amazing and affordable products while government brings us mediocre to poor programs and high costs. Until we recognize that and alter government accordingly, we will continue to waste hard-earned money on programs with big costs and little payoff.

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“Real” Accountability for Charter Prep Should Extend to the Whole System

With the recent failure of the Portland-based REAL Prep Charter Academy to open its doors, even after spending $500,000 of federal grant development money, parents and taxpayers are demanding more “accountability” for Oregon’s charter schools. But who should hold these schools accountable?

Consider the case of the Willamette Education Service District (WESD), a public entity which provides services like special education to school districts. Despite “oversight” by the state and a board of governors, clear and compelling reports of misconduct delivered by a reputable ESD leader were ignored for years.

As far back as 2004, a neighboring ESD leader, Bob Nelson, alerted the Oregon Department of Education, the Secretary of State’s Office, state lawmakers, and local education officials to no avail. It took media intervention to make a real difference. A 16-month Statesman Journal investigation revealed mismanagement including awarding “no-bid contracts, questionable property deals and supposedly self-supporting ventures that failed, lost money or drew formal complaints and lawsuits.” These mistakes cost taxpayers millions.

Regarding the WESD scandal, the Statesman Journal concluded, “The problems have been compounded during the past 10 years by lax board and state oversight and quid pro quo arrangements with state officials who were operating within a similar culture of mismanagement — a culture that continues today. And in spite of recent improvements, some problems continue unabated.”

Problems with oversight are not limited to just the Willamette ESD episode. A cursory glance reveals a history of management or ethics problems in many school districts across the state. Even in the absence of shady practices, the fact that we are spending on average more than $11,000 per pupil and getting mediocre to poor results (Education Week ranks Oregon 43rd), should clearly indicate lack of accountability and poor management in the system. Within Portland Public Schools alone, mismanagement problems are not limited to the REAL Prep charter scenario, but extend to chronically failing schools (like Jefferson High, which reportedly moved a principal last year due to mismanaging funds), failed property management (consider Whitaker Junior High for an utter waste of resources), and a dismal on-time graduation rate of 53%.

It is tempting to imagine some dream team of “smart people” who can oversee operations of schools and ensure they operate efficiently to provide the best education possible with the public funding they have. But such dreams are just that: imaginary. In the real world, government oversight rarely ensures efficiency, thrift, or effectiveness.

In contrast, in the business world, financial mismanagement can persist only for a limited time before the operation goes out of business. That is exactly what is happening with REAL Prep. REAL Prep founders are facing the consequences of poor planning: Their dream of ensuring future income working in an industry they loved is gone, with little to show for it other than humiliation.

Wasting 500,000 tax dollars is terrible. But because charter schools face more realistic financial demands (demands from which regular public schools are frequently sheltered), poorly managed schools can’t operate indefinitely. An ineffective, inefficient, or unwanted public charter school either must shape up or close its doors. That is not a tragedy, in the grand scheme. It is an important form of accountability, one from which regular public schools have been sheltered for decades.

Such protection for public schools has not been a boon. Rather, it has enabled the sort of culture which allowed the WESD to waste millions, unimpeded for years. The same shelter keeps chronically underperforming schools from improving, and allows districts to continue sick practices like “passing the trash” (transferring the worst teachers and administrators to other positions or schools rather than firing them).

The key solution for the education system is the same as that for the WESD. Legislators passed a law this year that allows some districts to opt out of ESD services and to keep most of the dollars that otherwise would be given to an ESD. That means districts can hold WESD accountable because now it has to earn their patronage.

Likewise, districts and schools should be held accountable by forcing them to earn student attendance. This can be best accomplished by increasing students’ other educational options through open enrollment in public schools, more charter schools, and K-12 education tax credits and opportunity scholarships that allow more students to attend private schools.

As for REAL Prep, more accountability is the answer to prevent future failures from wasting tax dollars. But the accountability should be parents, not politics.

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Unemployment Accounts: A Better Way to Protect the Unemployed

Cascade is hosting this special invite-only event. If you have not received an invite yet, please contact Christina Martin at christina@cascadepolicy.org to request one. We chose to limit the numbers of attendees for the event in order to foster a better environment for discussion, but we also welcome your enthusiasm to participate and hope to allow as many interested parties, as is practical, to attend.

On October 25, while you enjoy a delicious lunch, international experts on unemployment insurance will give a presentation on unemployment insurance reform.

These economists will explain some of the expensive problems with our current unemployment insurance program and discuss what their research reveals about how we could improve it to help workers keep more of their hard-earned money while actually closing gaping holes in the safety-net.

Their conclusion compliments decades of research that show how personal savings is the key to getting ahead and ending cycles of poverty.

Come hear Stéphane Pallage and Christian Zimmermann propose a way forward for Oregon’s workers and our unemployment insurance system.

This event is INVITE only. So please contact Christina Martin at christina@cascadepolicy.org if you would like to request an invitation.

Three course luncheon included – salad, chicken entrée, dessert, plus beverage.

About the Speakers:

Stéphane Pallage is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Economics at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM). He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. He has written extensively on the optimal design of unemployment insurance programs in many peer-reviewed academic journals.

Christian Zimmermann is Assistant Vice President at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Carnegie Mellon University. He previously worked at the University of Connecticut and the Bank of Canada. He has published articles in numerous peer-reviewed academic journals.

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You’re teaching my child what? And it is costing us how much!

Join U-Choose exploring public education. Speakers will present information on the history and degradation of curriculum, sex education, censorship of children in the classroom, and parents’ rights. The impact on youth, adults and the family will be addressed. Solutions provided.

Featured Topics/Speakers:

Progressive” Education: How did we get here? How John Dewey’s vision of progressive education was implemented, resulting in the weak “dumbed down” curriculum of today.

Rob Kremer, Host of Kremer and Abrams KXL Radio 101FM, Founder and President of Oregon Education Coalition, Principal Third Century Solutions

“Dumbing Down” of America’s Youth – Is this real? See examples of the watered down teaching in math, science and English that present day students are receiving in our schools compared to a century ago.

Dr. Chana Cox, Senior Lecturer in Humanities, Lewis and Clark College

Sex “Hyper” Education Indoctrination – Human Sexuality is a far cry from the biology of reproduction. Now by law students in Kindergarten through 12 grades will be taught everything from mutual masturbation to homosexual experimentation. Discover why this is important to government educators.

Suzanne Gallagher, Business Owner, Former Candidate for State Representative, Pro-Family Activist

Political Incorrectness and Censorship – What are your rights? Learn about “viewpoint discrimination” including Anti-Christian, and what you can do to defend your right to direct your child’s education.

Herb Grey, Esq.- Alliance Defense Fund Affiliated Attorney

 

America and our children face a bleak future. Their future depends on acting now!

When: Tuesday, October 18, 6:30pm- 9:00pm

Where: Word and Spirit Church, 6140 NE Stanton Street, Portland 97213, 503-771-0022

Child Care available. RSVP with number and ages to Suzanneuchoose@gmail.com.

$5 donation welcome at door.

 

If you can help with event publicity within Portland areas, please contact

Debra Mervyn 503-819-8800 at debrauchoose@gmail.com

 

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Extending Unemployment Benefits: Good Intentions, Bad Results

Last Thursday, President Obama asked Congress once again to extend unemployment benefits, allowing workers to continue receiving benefits for up to almost two years. His request may be at odds with his newly proposed chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers, Alan Krueger.

During Mr. Krueger’s career as a Princeton economics professor, he wrote about the effects of unemployment insurance on the unemployed. He, along with numerous mainstream economists, wrote that unemployment insurance increases the time that workers remain unemployed. More generous benefits lead to longer periods of unemployment. Thus, a bill aimed at helping the unemployed may actually have the opposite effect.

Many economic analyses have estimated that unemployment insurance has significantly increased the unemployment rate. For example, one recent publication from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, conservatively estimated “[t]he extension of unemployment insurance benefits during the recent economic downturn can account for approximately 1 percentage point of the increase in the unemployment rate.”

Adding another 4% to the estimated 2012 deficit, the President’s requested extension would cost around 45 billion dollars. And what about the human cost? Is it right to delay so many workers’ reemployment? Is it right to artificially inflate unemployment? As with so many government programs, good intentions too often lead to bad results. In this case, those results can be measured in fewer jobs and in less personal dignity.

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Unemployment Insurance, Savings Accounts or Both? A Way Forward for Oregon’s Workers

One silver lining of the burst housing bubble has been the increase in the personal savings rate. For many years prior to the recession, analysts furrowed their brows, bemoaning the nation’s poor savings rate, questioning the prudence of Americans. Both personal and business savings increased quickly after the recession hit. When individuals are nervous about the future, they save more; when they feel secure, they spend and invest more.

A logical extension of such reasoning, economists have long found that government safety nets decrease the amount individuals feel they need to save. Precautionary savings is that pool of money or other assets that individuals and businesses accumulate as a buffer against future stresses on income: unemployment, health problems or other unforeseen troubles. Unsurprisingly, unemployment insurance, among other safety nets, causes individuals to accumulate less precautionary savings.

Economists Eric Engen and Jonathan Gruber studied this effect and found that “[unemployment insurance] crowds out up to one-half of private savings for the typical unemployment spell,” decreasing overall asset accumulation.[i] Some may argue that this is not a problem since these workers may need less precautionary savings because of the government safety net. But such a simplistic justification neglects deeper implications.

Assets not only provide financial security, they actually change the way people behave. Asset owners tend to lead more stable lives, think in longer time frames and have more hope for the future.[ii] They are also more likely to be involved in community affairs and to plan for their children’s futures. For example, over a decade of research into the effects of assets indicates that the children of asset owners are more likely to succeed in school and to escape poverty. The effect of asset ownership on education and test scores is more significant than that of income.[iii]

Interestingly, research indicates that this relationship is likely causal, meaning that owning assets likely causes individuals to have greater expectations and those expectations cause them to accumulate more assets.[iv] Extending that logic, government programs like unemployment insurance (UI), which typically cause individuals to save less, probably damage inclinations toward long-term thinking, and consequently individuals’ stability, hope and children’s success. Along that vein, it also damages many individuals’ self-respect and confidence.

Personal savings has larger economic benefits, too. Though during recessions we hear frequently that individuals and businesses are “saving too much,” high savings rates are good in the long term. When people save more money, that creates a “greater supply of loanable funds” which tends to “stimulate capital investments.”[v] Under the current UI system, funds from unemployment taxes are “‘invested’ by the Treasury into the U.S. government debt obligations, which does little – to put it mildly – to help the economy grow.”[vi]

Those who like the perks of unemployment insurance are frequently afraid to experiment with something that they think works fine. Fortunately, Chile has already experimented with an alternative: Unemployment Insurance Savings Accounts. Chile’s system maintains the benefits of traditional UI, while harnessing the power of individual saving.

 

Chile’s workers and employers must pay a portion of wages into Unemployment Insurance Savings Accounts. Each worker has a full property interest in his account and will receive the remaining balance upon retirement. When a worker becomes unemployed for any reason (even if it is voluntary), he may draw 30-50% of the previous wage for up to 5 months. If a worker is laid off, small account balances are supplemented with a social unemployment insurance, funded with a small portion of the payroll tax.

These accounts offer an improved social safety net that preserves the benefits of personal savings. Workers can see their retirement and rainy day savings grow and with it, their expectations. Such expectations lead to long term planning and better lives.

These unemployment savings accounts also offer other benefits. While our unemployment compensation causes a well-documented lengthy increase in the time it takes the average worker to find a job and in the overall unemployment rate, the personal accounts system motivates workers to return to work faster so that they can have more money upon retirement.[vii] Chile’s system also broadens the pool of eligible recipients, since workers own their personal accounts. That means workers who can’t accept full-time employment (like a working mother or student), and workers who must quit their job for personal or professional reasons and are not covered under our system, would have some limited coverage under Chile’s system.

One recent state-specific study (commissioned by Cascade Policy Institute) by economists Stephane Pallage and Christian Zimmerman (now Assistant Vice President at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis) showed that switching to a system similar to Chile’s unemployment accounts system would benefit 97% of Oregonians.[viii] Even those who are most likely to be unemployed or most likely to have empty asset accounts would benefit from the switch, according to the economic model.

Government safety nets give citizens a false sense of security and encourage short-term thinking. Incorporating private accounts into unemployment insurance not only would improve the system for most workers and decrease unemployment, but could transform the way many Americans think about their future.


[i] Eric M. Engen and Jonathan Gruber, “Unemployment Insurance and Precautionary Saving,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper no. 5252 (Sept. 1995).

[ii] Michael Sherraden, Assets and the Poor (1991).

[iii] Zhan & Sherraden, “Assets, expectations, and children’s educational achievement in single-parent households,” 77 Social Service Review 191-211 (2003).

[iv] William Elliott III, Mesmin Destin and Terri Friedline, “Taking Stock of Ten Years of Research on the Relationship between Assets and Children’s Educational Outcomes: Implications for Theory, Policy and Intervention” (2011), available at http://cfed.org/assets/pdfs/CSD_Taking_Stock_of_Ten_Years_of_Research.pdf.

[v] David Honigman and George C. Leef, “It’s Time to Privatize Unemployment Insurance,” 45 The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty, (Sept. 1995).

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Gonzalo Reyes Hartley, Jan C. van Ours and Milan Vodopivec, Incentive Effects of Unemployment Insurance Savings Accounts: Evidence From Chile, The Institute for the Study of Labor, Discussion Paper No. 4681 (Jan. 2010).

[viii] Stéphane Pallage, Ph.D and Christian Zimmermann, Unemployment Accounts: A Better Way of Protecting the Unemployed (Aug. 2010), available at https://cascadepolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/UI_Reform_ Report.pdf.

 

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Recent K-12 Education Reforms Let Kids Transfer to a Brighter Future

Public education exists to serve children – period. However, as evidenced by the Oregon Education Association’s (OEA) ongoing actions, some believe public education should serve primarily the adults who work in the system. Thankfully, this legislative session, Oregon’s state leaders concluded otherwise.

After tense negotiations on several education-related bills, Oregon’s legislature passed the most substantial education reforms Oregon has seen in decades, at the governor’s request. The more “controversial” elements of that package will provide students – who find their traditional public schools unsuitable – more educational options from which to choose, including charter and online schools. Such student-focused, choice-based measures were a particular pebble in the OEA’s shoe. Why?

Choice threatens the OEA’s monopolistic hold on public education. That grasp has allowed the OEA (a union) to become Oregon’s most financially powerful special interest group, lobbying for, well, itself. So when something undermines that power – even if that something is beneficial to children – the OEA will stand in the way, as it did this legislative session. Oregon families should be grateful the OEA lost and the governor and legislators led. Now, many children in need of a better education no longer will be held hostage.

For example, last summer, more than 4,700 Oregon kids were on waiting lists for charter schools. Because school districts were not authorizing enough additional charters to keep up with demand, desperate families have been left high and dry. (Currently, only districts and the State Board of Education can sponsor charters.)

Now, if charter school applicants are denied by districts, they can appeal to public colleges for sponsorship, providing a new avenue for charters to grow. Although public colleges will be able to sponsor just one charter each, this should help hundreds of families find the schools for which they are looking.

Many Oregon families also have been waiting for access to virtual, or online, charter schools. Currently, Oregon’s virtual charters are operating under an enrollment cap that has kept many kids from using this innovative option. Online learning is emerging as a cutting-edge way for students to have wider access to courses that otherwise might be unavailable to them.  If Oregonians want to enroll their children in such schools, why not let them?

Thanks to state leaders, kids now will be able to access any virtual charter school without having to obtain their local district’s permission – at least until three percent of that district’s students are attending a virtual school. Although still unnecessarily limited, this improvement will be life changing for families who have been denied entry. It also will make it easier for families who have received permission but have had to wade through the same transfer paperwork year after year.

The third choice measure that will benefit Oregon students essentially carries charter schools’ open-enrollment policy over to traditional public schools. Today, it is difficult, if not impossible, for parents to enroll their children in out-of-district public schools because districts often refuse to let kids transfer. Now, parents will be able to enroll their children in any public school, as long as the receiving school district is accepting transfers.

 

In short, districts no longer will be able to force kids to stay in their local public schools if they’re able to get a public education elsewhere.

The OEA claimed that giving parents such choices creates financial instability for schools (by losing transferees). Other states, which have such policies in place, seem to cope. Why can’t Oregon? Moreover, this begs another question: Does the OEA believe that it and traditional public schools are entitled to students?

If parents choose to leave a school, that suggests something is either wrong with the school or, even if the school is “good,” their children’s needs aren’t being adequately met. In both instances, parents believe they can find a better fit for their kids elsewhere. If the goal of public education is to educate, why deny children access to schools that could do a better job of educating?

Oregon’s lawmakers and governor finally are answering that question. They’ve put partisan politics aside to support reforms for which thousands of Oregon families have been waiting. There still is much work to be done to ensure Oregon’s children – not the OEA – are the true  of beneficiaries public education. But this start will show Oregonians that the sky doesn’t fall when choice is incorporated into public education; it gets brighter.

 

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Thousands of Oregon Kids Waiting – Literally – for Education Package

This week, legislators and lobbyists are working frantically behind the scenes on an education package that could help transform educational opportunities for students across Oregon. The package features reforms that will shape the state’s oversight of education as well as parents’ ability to choose a public school based on a school’s merits rather than its address.

One of the bills at the center of the tension, HB 3645, would allow Oregon’s public colleges to sponsor a charter school. Oregon’s charter schools are public schools that are operated by non-profit organizations. These schools do not charge tuition, cannot be religiously based, and cannot discriminate against students for their background, academic aptitude, or any other reason. Currently, only school districts or the State Board of Education may sponsor charter schools. This bill would allow charter applicants to ask Oregon’s public colleges to sponsor charters. Many states, including New York, Michigan, and Minnesota already have similar laws.

I discovered the urgent need for such a reform last year when I set out to learn how many of Oregon’s children were on waiting lists to get into a public charter school. Out of Oregon’s 108 charter schools, 92 schools finally responded. More than 4,700 kids were on waiting lists for a charter school last summer. Fewer than 20,000 kids (less than 3%) currently attend charter schools, but clearly far more would, if given the opportunity. In fact, a 2008 poll showed that 24% of Oregon parents would choose a charter school if they could.

Parents want options for their kids beyond the local district school. But why haven’t charter schools expanded enough to meet the demand? District politics frequently make it nearly impossible for even excellent applicants to get permission to start or expand a charter school.

Portland Public Schools’ (PPS) history with charter schools is telling. The application process is lengthy and expensive, taking 12 – 18 months and costing thousands of dollars since applicants typically hire experts to help. They not only must submit a detailed operating budget and curriculum, but they must pay to send out surveys and conduct focus groups to determine student demand. The PPS application itself is 50 pages long, and complete applications are hundreds of pages long. The hurdles continue through the process and the record reflects that clearly. PPS only approved three out of 17 charter applications (18 percent) between 2004 and fall of 2010.

Are such sky-high hurdles altruistic attempts to protect students from bad charter schools? Theories about the cause or justification of such district suspicion abound, but ultimately school boards are driven by local politics. Political incentives involve a number of competing interests, many of them selfish and in opposition to students’ interests.

Such competing incentives are sometimes apparent in the denials themselves, which often claim that charter schools will have an “adverse impact” on regular district schools by drawing too many students (and accompanying funding) from regular district schools. These claims neglect the reality that charter schools get about 55 cents for every dollar that a regular public school spends per student, and when a student transfers to a charter school, regular district schools no longer bear the cost of educating that child, allowing more money to be spent per student who remains in district-run schools.

HB 3645 will help charter schools steer past some of the political obstacles and to be judged more on their merits. But first, the bill must endure the political game at the state level. The Oregon Education Association (OEA), a union, has stated that it opposes allowing public colleges to sponsor charter schools because, “[a]t a time that we are closing neighborhood schools it doesn’t make sense to promote the growth of charter schools.”

Likewise, the OEA opposes HB 3681, which would essentially carry charter schools’ open-enrollment policy over to regular public schools, increasing kids’ educational options. It also opposes HB 2301, which would loosen enrollment restrictions that currently restrict many families from being able to choose a virtual charter school.

The OEA apparently believes that regular district schools are entitled to local student enrollment. The OEA fears that giving parents a choice would create financial instability for schools that might lose too many kids to transfers. But if parents are leaving a particular school in droves, doesn’t that suggest that something is wrong with that school? And if something is wrong, why should parents be forced to send their children there? Opponents of school choice argue that those children who are left behind in bad schools would suffer most. Yet, evidence across the nation suggests that these kids, too, benefit as schools are forced to improve their performance to retain students and accompanying funds.

This is not a battle between private education and public education. All of these educational options are public schools! School choice – empowering parents to choose a school that is the right fit for their kids – is making a significant difference for thousands of Oregon families already. Many more could benefit, finding the schools that work best for them, with bills like HB 3645, 3681, and 2301.

Stand for Children, Governor John Kitzhaber (a Democrat), and many House Republicans have fought the OEA and popular myths to support this education package. As Oregon’s voters and legislators consider these school choice bills, they should consider the thousands of Oregon families who are waiting for a better educational opportunity for their kids.

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Oregon Education Spending Increases―But for What Outcome?

How much do we spend to educate students in Oregon? It depends on what kind of spending you include. On May 31, The Oregonian cited a U.S. Census Bureau report stating that Oregon spent $9,805 on average in 2008-09 school year, 7% below the national average for per pupil education spending. That figure excluded certain spending and is well below the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and national teachers union (NEA) figures for that same year: $10,029 and $10,129 respectively. Add the year’s debt service expenditures reported by the ODE (which presumably go toward improving kids’ education), and spending per enrolled pupil jumps to around $11,200 per student. This total figure climbs even higher to around $12,600 if you measure per pupil expenditures by actual average attendance rather than the October 1 student enrollment.

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s biggest union, ranks Oregon around the national average for spending (less than 2% under the average spending per enrolled pupil, but above average for spending for average daily attendance), despite our lower than average cost of living. Typical for the U.S., Oregon has significantly increased per pupil spending, from around $7,000 in 1981-1982 (after adjusting for inflation to 2010 dollars), to more than$11,000 in the 2009-2010 school year.

Yet, focusing on how much Oregon spends per student begs the question as to how much spending is enough. Nationwide, spending has more than doubled since 1970, but improved outcomes have not followed. While fourth and eighth graders are doing slightly better on the nation’s most stable educational measurement―the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)―it appears that any early gains are lost by the time they reach the finish line: 17-year-old students have not improved since the U.S. Department of Education first started measuring their math and reading performance with the NAEP in the 1970s.

Likewise, international evidence confirms that spending is a poor predictor of educational outcomes. While the U.S. is among the top for per pupil spending, we place in the middle of the pack of developed nations. Decade after decade, our leaders promise better outcomes with “better oversight” and “increased accountability.” But the accountability they speak of does little to empower teachers or administrators to harness their own unique talents and passions, nor does it empower parents and students to find the educational program that would best help them thrive. Bottom-up, market-oriented reforms already have proven successful in places like Florida, New York City and Milwaukee.

Rather than hyping the same empty promises that require better “oversight” by bureaucrats, many states are now catching on and creating more educational opportunities with public charter schools (choice schools), open enrollment policies, opportunity scholarships and education savings accounts. Groups like Oregon’s Stand For Children now recognize that increased funding is not a silver bullet; rather, smarter spending is necessary. Movies like Waiting for “Superman” and The Cartel highlight true success stories around the nation. Perhaps Oregon, too, will join the new wave of effective education reform.

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$11,540 per student in 2009-2010: Are we getting our money’s worth?

According to the National Education Association, the national teachers union, Oregon spent an average of $10,476 per enrolled student in the 2009-2010 school year. Add in reported debt service spending, and that figure leaps even higher to $11,540 per student.

Are we getting our money’s worth? Nationwide, spending has more than doubled since 1970, but improved outcomes have not followed. While fourth and eighth graders are doing slightly better on the nation’s most stable educational measurement―the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)―any early gains are lost by the time they reach the finish line: 17-year-old students have not improved since the U.S. Department of Education first started measuring their math and reading performance in the 1970s.

Likewise, international evidence confirms that spending is a poor predictor of educational outcomes. While the U.S. is among the top spenders for education, we place in the middle of the pack of developed nations for performance.

Decade after decade, our leaders promise better outcomes if we just spend more and incorporate “better oversight” and “increased accountability.” It hasn’t worked. It’s time we turn the system on its head and empower teachers and administrators at the ground level to use their talents―and parents and students to find the educational program that will best help them thrive.

 

 

 

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Arizona’s Empowering Education Savings Accounts: An Example for Oregon

Leading by example, Arizona’s government recently passed a bill creating Arizona Empowerment Accounts. Under the new program, if a child with special needs leaves his or her traditional public school, a portion of the state funding that would have gone toward educating that student will go into an education savings account for that student. The money then can pay for other educational options: private school tuition, online courses, tutoring or homeschool curriculum. The money left when the child finishes high school can be used for college within four years of high school graduation.

This program harnesses the benefits of both vouchers and savings accounts. Vouchers have been shown by gold standard social science studies to improve educational outcomes for students who receive vouchers and even for those who remain behind in regular public schools. Nine out of the ten random assignment empirical studies found that vouchers improve student outcomes; one found no impact. 19 out of 18 studies found that vouchers positively impacted regular public schools; only one found no impact.

Vouchers help give kids the intellectual background to better succeed in life, while the savings function of the program will also likely increase students’ financial ability to attend college. Research has shown that having economic assets substantially increases kids’ educational outcomes and likelihood to attend college. Of children who expect to one day graduate from a four-year college, those with savings accounts are six times more likely to attend college by the time they are 23.

Educational savings accounts will empower families to choose the type of education that will best serve their kids, leading to better outcomes for students. Oregon’s legislators should take note and bring such great opportunities to our state.

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You’re teaching my child what?

Join U-Choose exploring public school and private education. Speakers will present information on degradation of curriculum, sex education, and political correctness.  Cost of public education will also be addressed, along with controversies in Portland and Tigard Tualatin and Lake Oswego School Districts.

 

Featured Topics/Speakers:

 

§         “Dumbing Down” of America’s Youth – Dr. Chana Cox, Retired Faculty, Lewis and Clark College

 

§         Sex “Hyper” Education Indoctrination – Suzanne Gallagher, Business Owner, Past President Eagle Forum Oregon

 

§         Education Spending in Oregon and Nationally – Christina Martin, Policy Analyst, Cascade Policy Institute

 

 

You will not want to miss this lively event!

 

Come share your views and experiences during U-Talk.  Children, teens, adults welcome.

 

When: Thursday June 2, 6:30pm- 9:00pm

 

Where:         Tigard Chamber of Commerce

12345 SW Main Street

Tigard, OR

 

If you are interested in learning more about this event, contact Debra at debrauchoose@gmail.com.

 

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Additional Graduation Requirement Misses the Point

Last week, Oregon’s state House passed a bill that would require students to apply for post-secondary education, the military, or an apprenticeship or to attend an informational session on a training program in order to receive their high school diploma. Bill supporters argue that this could increase the number of kids who enroll in higher education.

Yet, there is no evidence that such a program will increase enrollment in higher education. Already, 70% of U.S. students enroll in college within two years of high school graduation. But around 30% of students drop out, and many more fail to graduate on time according to the NCES, a division of the U.S. Department of Education. One major cause is that students are commonly unprepared for college-level work.

Around 40 percent of Oregon’s community college freshman enroll in remedial courses. And surveys by the NCES have found that about 1 in 4 freshmen in 4-year public universities enroll in remedial courses. Students who take remedial courses are far more likely to drop out of college. Yet startlingly, in a 2008 survey only 14% of such students thought their high school coursework had been difficult.

Rather than heap more top-heavy mandates on schools and students, the legislature would be wise to free schools to do what they are supposed to do: educate kids. And rather than manipulate children to apply for post-secondary education or the military, the legislature should empower kids to seek out and choose a high school education that will challenge them and prepare them for life.

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Is Kitzhaber’s Oregon Investment Board a Good Investment in Kids’ Education?

Governor Kitzhaber is seeking to consolidate power over education. Early childhood, K-12 and post-secondary education would be overseen by a single board, the Oregon Investment Board.

Surprisingly, most of the education establishment approves of these changes, saying they will improve things at the ground level. Yet, how would shifting power upward improve educational outcomes for children at the bottom? For decades, we have tried that as the state and federal governments have gotten increasingly involved in our neighborhoods’ classrooms. Likewise, consolidating school districts to find savings and improve outcomes has not borne fruit.

But empowering individuals at the bottom – kids and parents – has made a world of difference to those on the ground level. Likewise, it has freed teachers to use their talents and passion to innovate at the classroom level. Choice programs like charter schools, vouchers and K-12 education tax credits have improved outcomes for kids, saved money and made parents happier in places like Milwaukie, Florida and Washington, D.C. Oregon parents, too, see the value of choice as waiting lists at local charter schools persist even as charter schools grow.

This issue boils down to your belief in freedom and governance. Do you believe a handful of elite individuals can determine best how to meet your children’s needs? Or do you believe that you know your children’s needs better than a distant group of bureaucrats?

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A “Training Wage” Can Get Teens Their First Job – And Jumpstart Their Earning Potential

Have you ever tried to hire an average teenager? A few years ago, when I needed some furniture moved, my mother reached out to some fundraising teenagers on my behalf, offering the wage that I had set. The three boys eagerly accepted the offer, showed up for work and proceeded to demonstrate why it can be so difficult for many teenagers to land and maintain employment. They not only lacked experience, but they required detailed tutoring in seemingly straightforward work. More time was spent teaching them how to lift, move and pack furniture than they actually spent working. 

In Oregon, you cannot legally employ anyone, teen or otherwise, for less than $8.50 per hour, even if his actual labor is worth much less. It should be little surprise then, that our population’s least experienced workers – teenagers – had an unemployment rate of 28.8 percent last year (much higher than the state’s rate of 10.2 percent). The national teen employment rate in 2010 was a meager 27 percent, which has dropped substantially since 2000, when it was healthier (but still too low) at 45%.

Such dismal employment levels are what inspired House Bill 3279, for which the Oregon House Business and Labor Committee held a hearing a few weeks ago. The bill would allow teens to work for less than minimum wage (as low as $7.25, the federal minimum wage) for their first 90 days of employment. Sadly, many legislators met the bill with suspicion, fearing it would create an unfair bias in favor of teenage workers. These legislators worry that teenagers would displace adults by being able to work for less.

Six percent of U.S. workers paid by the hour earn federal minimum wage or less. Only four percent of workers older than 25 earned at or below the federal minimum wage in 2010, according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. But 25 percent of working teenagers earned at or below minimum wage. Multiple studies have shown that most minimum wage workers move ahead to higher wages. A more detailed study of minimum wage workers revealed that few adults, and even fewer parents, rely on their minimum wage job as their primary source of income. Most minimum wage workers are providing a secondary or third source of family income. And most workers, as they build skills, eventually will earn more than minimum wage. Accordingly, it would behoove legislators to help teens build their skills earlier, rather than pricing them out of the market.

Instead, with the bar set too high for many teens, not only are they earning less money to spend and save for valuable investments later (like college), they are not gaining the invaluable experience that will allow them to earn more down the road by developing their skills, or “human capital.”

“Human capital” describes a person’s attributes that increase her earning potential and ability to grow wealth. It includes a person’s “intelligence, educational background, work experience, knowledge, skill and health,” according to Michael Sherraden’s influential book, Assets and the Poor. It is also important to our nation. According to Gary Becker, a prominent theorist, human capital accounts for around 75% of the United States’ wealth, with the rest consisting of capital in businesses, homes, goods, and government capital and cash. It is the proverbial knowledge of how to fish, versus the fish itself.

Teenagers are easily influenced. According to Andrew Sum, Director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, especially among low-income and minority youth, “[t]he more teens work this year, the more they work next year.” If they do not work now, they are less likely to work later. But with increased experience, teens will earn better wages and be more likely to hold a steady job later. They are also more likely to graduate from high school (developing another form of human capital).

With such a weight of evidence, legislators should reconsider HB 3279. Inexperienced teens need the opportunity to work for a “training wage,” something less than minimum wage, so that they, too, can acquire the skills and experience to earn more in the future.

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Unemployment Benefits Warrant a Second Look

Oregon’s legislature is currently rushing to approve bills that will extend unemployment insurance yet again. But legislators should pause to consider that while it may feel good, the costs may sabotage the effect they seek.

 

This year, the average payroll tax to support unemployment insurance is $995 for an employee who makes at least $32,300 in Oregon. This is $109 more than it was in 2010. And that doesn’t even include the costs of large federal extensions. Why have these taxes increased so much? Because Oregon’s unemployment is high and our benefits are generous, or at least prolonged. In Oregon, workers can claim benefits for more than two years.

 

Some will say that $1,000 per worker is a fair price to pay for a popular safety net. Yet, such a hefty price demands that we ask hard questions or at least look for ways to improve unemployment insurance. The current program has repeatedly been shown to increase unemployment. It also indirectly taxes many employees who personally can never benefit from the program if they become unemployed because they, for example, cannot accept full-time work.

 

Let’s encourage our federal and state legislators to stop rushing through extensions and pause to ask hard questions about unemployment insurance. The cost is too great to continue ignoring its problems.

 

 

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Christina Martin talks education reform at LLF

Watch the following video of Christina Martin talking education reform before Oregon legislators and staff in Salem on March 16th, 2011.

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Will Oregon’s Legislature Help K-12 Education Get Online?

Oregon’s legislature is again considering bills that would affect K-12 students’ access to online education. While virtual charter schools (public schools operated by non-profit organizations that provide a full-time online education for K-12 kids) are valuable and worth protecting, it seems that our elected officials are missing the forest for the trees.

The most exciting potential for online education to advance K-12 learning is not in the full-time online education model, although that is an essential option. Rather, part-time and the blended learning approach hold the greatest promise to rapidly improve Oregon’s educational opportunities. Part-time learning allows students enrolled in a regular brick-and-mortar public school to enroll in one or more online courses. Blended learning combines face-to-face teaching with online curriculum.

The House Education Committee has heard three bills this session that would affect online education: One simply would end enrollment caps for virtual charter schools. Another, inspired by an OEA recommendation, essentially would end virtual charter schools and replace them with a public (i.e., unionized) online option. The third, House Bill 3201, which has the most momentum, carries some oppressive rules that would limit competition, but also would open up online options to more families. HB 2301 would:

  • Generally end enrollment caps on statewide virtual charter schools and allow students to transfer to out-of-district statewide virtual charters without getting their local district’s permission. However, once three percent of a district’s students are attending a virtual charter, the district could refuse to allow additional students to transfer, as long as the district offered another full-time online option. Parents could appeal transfer denials to the State Board of Education.
  • Decrease how much the state would compensate a virtual school for providing education to a regular student. The current bill provides for 80% of state ADMw (that is, 80% of the state’s per-student funding), but that is fortunately likely to increase, according to insiders.
  • Limit the number of statewide K-12 virtual charter school providers to three, thereby limiting families’ online educational options and competition among providers. This doesn’t make any sense, unless you simply dislike competition and prefer monopolies or oligopolies.
  • Open up greater opportunities for kids across Oregon to enroll in public part-time online options once programs are approved by the ODE. The programs would be created by districts or ESDs and would be available to students in any school district.

This bill is yet another “mixed bag” that should be improved to maximize options and quality of online programs. Obviously, the number of virtual charter schools should not be limited. Also, the bill should be altered to allow students to attend existing charter schools (virtual or regular) part-time, provided that the virtual schools agree to accommodate part-time students. Nonetheless, the bill would open up more opportunities for students to enroll in full- or part-time online options. This couldn’t come soon enough.

In Oregon, 75% of schools do not offer Advanced Placement or IB classes in all core subjects (reading, math, science and social studies), according to the College Board. Oregon lags well behind the national average in this respect. Even worse, one-fourth of U.S. high schools do not offer advanced classes, according to Michael Horn, a co-author of Disrupting Class. In other words, one in four U.S. high schools do not offer chemistry, physics, algebra II, Calculus or even honors English.

At the same time, many of Oregon’s schools have faced budget cuts during the current economic trouble. Even in the midst of budget cuts, how can schools increase opportunities for students, allowing more kids to reach their academic potential? By giving power back to parents to choose programs beyond their local district school. This should extend beyond the classic “take it or leave it” approach, by allowing kids to choose to remain in their local public school while still having access to classes that aren’t offered locally.

Online education programs are already making a wide array of courses available to kids across the country while keeping costs low. Programs like Florida’s Virtual School have allowed thousands of kids attending regular public schools to enroll in effective advanced courses, as well as in rudimentary courses designed to help students catch up with their peers. The beauty of these online programs is not only accessibility, but also that they can be personalized, allowing students to work at their own pace and to spend more time on lessons that they struggle with or that interest them more.

For these same reasons, full-time online charter schools have excelled in Oregon. In 2005, Oregon’s first virtual charter school opened. By 2009 (when the legislature capped the schools’ enrollment), more than 4,000 students attended online charter schools, with many more asking for the opportunity. Oregon’s kids deserve more options, not fewer. Creating more effective educational opportunities does not require increased spending, but it does require smarter spending and flexibility.

 

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Testimony to the House Education Committee

Update: Last month, House Bill 2287 passed out of the House Education Committee. Next week, the House is scheduled to vote on this bill.

Christina MartinCascade Commentary

Testimony to the House Education Committee
Re: H.B. 2287
February 4, 2011
by Christina Martin

Chair Wingard, Chair Gelser, Members of the House Education Committee,

My name is Christina Martin, I am a policy analyst with the Cascade Policy Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan, public policy think tank. Cascade researches policy issues including education reform.

After seeing The Lottery, The Cartel, and anticipating Waiting for Superman, I wanted to know how many of Oregon’s children were on waiting lists to get into a school of choice – a public charter school. So I contacted every charter school in the state. As you can imagine, it is not easy to get a hold of busy school administrators to find out how many kids were waiting. However, out of Oregon’s 108 charter schools, 92 schools responded. I discovered that more than 4,700 kids were on waiting lists for a charter school last summer.  In October, still more than 3,600 kids were waiting to get into charter schools, even though parents do not usually like to disrupt their children’s education with mid-year transfers.
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Hearing on Friday for K-12 Tax Credit Scholarship Program

The House Education Committee will hear a bill proposing a K-12 tax credit scholarship program this Friday, March 4, at 1pm in Salem. House Bill 2291 would increase opportunities for K-12 students from low-income and working-class families to attend private schools by granting tax credits to individuals and businesses for donations to qualified scholarship organizations. (Read about how this program could save Oregon millions.)

Two other bills that would create similar scholarship programs for special education students (HB 2290) and students attending failing schools (HB 2289) also will be heard on March 4. EmailChristina@Cascadepolicy.org for more information about how to show your support!

These bills are part of a package of Florida style reforms (House Bills 2288-2295). The other portions of the Florida package include HB 2288 for A-F Grading of Schools; HB 2292 for Teacher Licensure; HB 2293 for Every Third Grader Reads; HB 2294 for Incentive Pay/AP Success Bonuses. Of these bills, we encourage you to specifically support HB 2292, which would allow alternative means of licensure for teachers. This bill would allow teachers with doctoral degrees and equivalent out-of-state teaching licenses to teach in Oregon. It would make it easier for Oregon’s schools to attract and retain talent. Currently, only 24% of Oregon’s high schools offer Advanced Placement or IB courses in the four core subjects. This bill, and HB 2294, would help give students more advanced course options.

Please attend the hearing on March 4th to show your support. If you are interested in testifying, please emailChristina@cascadepolicy.org for more information about how to submit testimony. If you cannot attend, please email legislators on the house education committee to let them know that you support these bills.

House Education Committee Members:
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Oregon’s K-12 Future Must Include Online Education Options

Christina MartinQuickPoint!

by Christina Martin

Click here to hear the audio            Download PDF

According to the College Board, 75% of Oregon schools do not offer Advanced Placement or IB classes in the four core courses: reading, math, science and social studies. Even worse, one in four U.S. high schools do not offer anything above geometry, biology or English. That means one in four high schools do not offer chemistry, physics, algebra II, calculus or even honors English.

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Christina Martin on Lars Larson

Check out Christina Martin talking education on Lars Larson.

[audio:2011-2ChristinaMartinLarsLarson.mp3]


Click the play button to hear the audio commentary

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National School Choice Week: Oregon Could Save Millions by Giving Kids a Choice

This week is National School Choice Week. School choice stands apart from other education reforms, not only in its growing bipartisan support, but also in its ability to deliver results without increasing costs to taxpayers.

One school choice reform that is getting results is Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program for low-income kids. Florida’s program began in 2001 providing tax credits for scholarships to students from low-income families. In 2007-08 alone, the program supported about 23,000 students, about 95% of whom would not have been able to attend a private school otherwise. It has helped bring Florida from among the lower performing states in educational achievement to among the best. While Education Week now ranks Florida as 5th in the nation, Oregon (despite having a more privileged population and spending more per student) is ranked at 43rd.
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Fiscal Impacts of an Oregon Tax Credit Scholarship Program

Summary

A Modest Tax Credit Scholarship Program Would Produce a Fiscal Net Benefit to Oregon State School Funding
The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program was established in 2001. It provides an income tax credit for corporations that contribute money to nonprofit scholarship-funding organizations (SFOs) that award scholarships to students from families with limited financial resources. The Florida legislature calculates that the program saved the state $36.2 million in fiscal year 2008-09.

If Oregon adopted a program similar to Florida’s, the benefits of reduced demands for education funding would exceed the costs of the tax credit, producing a net savings to the state of $7.7 million.

Click here to view the complete study.

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Local Districts Keep Thousands of Oregon Kids Waiting for a Choice

Christina MartinCascade Commentary

Local Districts Keep Thousands of Oregon Kids Waiting for a Choice
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by Christina Martin

The last week in January is National School Choice Week. Organizations, celebrities and individuals from diverse political persuasions are standing together to demand that we give kids better educational opportunities. School choice stands apart from other reforms, not only in its growing bipartisan support, but also in its ability to deliver results without increasing costs to taxpayers.

Oregon’s charter school law, the state’s only significant school choice reform, has yet to reach its transformative potential because most districts still fail to embrace it. The law allowed the creation of charter schools—public schools operated by non-profit private organizations.

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Thousands of Oregon Kids Hope for a Charter School

Last summer, over 4,700 kids were on waiting lists hoping to attend an Oregon charter school, according to a report released today by Cascade Policy Institute. Charter schools are public schools run by private non-profit organizations.

Most of Oregon’s charter schools have waiting lists. Some blame charter schools, but it is politicians and bureaucrats who have kept kids waiting. (more…)

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3,600 Oregon students Hoping for charter school SLOTS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, January 5, 2011

Contact: Christina Martin
Cascade Policy Institute
Tel.: 503-242-0900
Fax: 503-242-3822
E-mail: Christina@cascadepolicy.org

3,600 Oregon students Hoping for charter school SLOTS

PORTLAND – A report released today by Cascade Policy Institute shows that over 3,600 kids are on waiting lists to attend one of Oregon’s charter schools and explains why lists are long.

The study, Waiting for Choice: Charter Schools, Waiting Lists and Obstacles to Expanding Educational Opportunities for Oregon’s Kids, investigated demand for charter school options in Oregon and obstacles to increasing enrollment capacity. (more…)

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Waiting for Choice: Charter Schools, Waiting Lists and Obstacles to Expanding Educational Opportunities for Oregon’s Kids

By Christina Martin and Rebecca Steele

Executive Summary

Download PDF

Oregon’s charter schools, which are public schools run by private non-profit organizations, are popular with parents. Over 4,700 children were on waiting lists this summer to attend one of Oregon’s charter schools during the 2010-11 school year. Once school starts in the fall, waiting lists usually shrink since many parents do not want to disrupt their children’s school year with a transfer. Still, in late October, more than 3,600 kids were on waiting lists.

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Unions’ School Funding Fears Are Unfounded, Study Finds

Christina MartinQuickPoint!
 

[audio:QuickPoint11-10-10Christina.mp3]

Click the play button to hear the audio commentary

By Christina Martin

Online charter schools offer kids even in the far corners of Oregon the chance to receive a public education tailored to their individual needs. Yet many districts and union representatives oppose Oregon’s virtual charter schools, claiming they drain money from local districts.

Due to these complaints, Oregon’s legislature will consider allowing school districts to deny additional students access to virtual charter schools if 3% of district students have already enrolled in the online option.

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Press Release: Online Charter Schools increase district Funding per student

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Christina Martin
Cascade Policy Institute
Tel.: 503-242-0900
Fax: 503-242-3822
E-mail: Christina@cascadepolicy.org

Online Charter Schools increase district Funding per student

Download the full report

PORTLAND – A student transfer to an online charter school can enable the student’s home district, and the charter schools’ sponsoring district, to spend more money per traditional public school student, according to a study released today by Cascade Policy Institute.

“Virtual charter schools have very little impact on districts’ funding overall, and will usually even increase per student spending for students in district schools,” says Eric Fruits, Ph.D., the author of the report. Fruits, an economist, is president of Economics International Corp.

Key findings of the report, Fiscal Impacts of Oregon Online Charter Schools, include:
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Report: Online Charter Schools increase district Funding per student


Online Charter Schools increase district Funding per student
by Eric Fruits, Ph D
Download the full report

Executive Summary

Online or “virtual” schools educate students using lessons delivered via computer to students’ homes. Oregon charter schools receive a lower level of state funding than non-charter public schools. Even so, online charter schools attract criticism regarding their funding. Some critics complain that charter schools draw funding away from traditional schools.

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Christina Martin on Populations TV

On October 15th, Christina Martin debated education reform, school choice, and charter schools with OEA Vice President Hannah Vaandering.

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Intel-ligent Stimulus

Christina Martin
QuickPoint!

[audio:QuickPoint10-20-10Christina.mp3]

Click the play button to hear the audio commentary

By Christina Martin

Download PDF

Intel announced this week that it will bring almost 7,000 new jobs to Oregon by expanding in Hillsboro. That is 7,000 individuals who will be paying taxes and spending money in Oregon. This is unusually good news in this time of economic trouble and high unemployment.

But why did Intel choose Oregon when it could build anywhere? Especially when certain Oregon taxes are significantly higher than taxes in many other states. Intel has a number of special tax deals with the state of Oregon and local governments that allow it to keep a competitive edge in a world marketplace. It gets special tax exemptions on much of its property and equipment. Furthermore, most of its income is also exempt from Oregon’s corporate taxes because the company sells most of its products outside of the state. Yet, even many who a year ago claimed that Oregon’s businesses aren’t paying their “fair share” will be encouraged by today’s news. That’s because 7,000 private sector jobs will breathe fresh life into the area. (more…)

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Unemployment Accounts: A True “Benefit” for Most Oregonians

Christina Martin
QuickPoint!

[audio:QuickPoint9-22-10Christina.mp3]

Click the play button to hear the audio commentary

By Christina Martin

Download PDF

Owning assets is a powerful key to getting ahead and staying ahead. Assets provide stability and allow individuals opportunities for investment. They also change the way people behave. According to research, people tend to think in longer time frames and to have more hope for the future once they acquire something significant that they can call their own.

Unfortunately, government safety nets help low-income citizens primarily through income transfers. These programs discourage people from building assets, penalizing participants who save too much.

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Unemployment Accounts: A Saving Opportunity

Christina Martin

Cascade Commentary

Unemployment Accounts: A Saving Opportunity
by Christina Martin

Download PDF

After multiple extensions by Congress, many unemployed workers now can receive unemployment benefits for nearly two years. These extensions may bring some individuals a sigh of relief, but they are a cause for concern for the larger economy. A recent JPMorgan Chase study claims that unemployment insurance extensions actually have raised unemployment by 1.5 percentage points. Dr. Robert Barro, a Harvard professor, recently claimed that the extensions have raised unemployment as much as 2.7 percentage points.

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Unemployment Insurance Fact Sheet

Christina Martin Unemployment Insurance Fact Sheet

by Christina Martin

This piece accompanies an earlier report by Christina Martin, found here.

Download a PDF of this Fact Sheet

Unemployment Insurance Facts

Unemployment Insurance (UI) needs reform. It is inefficient and unfair for many workers. For the minority of workers eligible to receive benefits, the system encourages temporary lay-offs and discourages workers from finding employment.

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Unemployment accounts would be better for most Oregonians than traditional unemployment insurance

For Immediate Release
August 4, 2010

Contact
Christina Martin, Asset Ownership Project Director
Cascade Policy Institute
503-242-0900
Christina@cascadepolicy.org

Unemployment accounts would be better for most Oregonians than traditional unemployment insurance

By Christina Martin

PORTLAND, Ore. – Ninety-seven percent of Oregonians would benefit by switching from a standard unemployment insurance system to a system of unemployment savings accounts, according to a study released today by the Cascade Policy Institute.

The study, Unemployment Accounts: A Better Way of Protecting the Unemployed, was completed by economists Stéphane Pallage, Ph.D, chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Quebec in Montreal, and Christian Zimmermann, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Connecticut.

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Will Oregon’s Virtual Charter Schools Survive?

Christina Martin

Cascade Commentary

Will Oregon’s Virtual Charter Schools Survive?
Download the PDF

By Christina Martin

For more than a year, virtual (online) charter schools have been on the defensive against threats of crippling regulations. Last year, the Oregon Education Association (the state’s largest teachers union), proposed its “top-priority” bill (Senate Bill 767) that would have effectively shut down these innovative schools if it had been fully adopted. The Oregon Legislature responded by putting significant restrictions on the schools and capping student enrollment through 2011. The resulting bills also guarantee that the schools’ futures will remain uncertain for at least another year.

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State Board Continues Debating Virtual Charter School Enrollment Cap

Olivia Wolcott

 

Cascade Commentary

 

Two of Cascade’s research associates, Olivia Wolcott and Rebecca Steele, advocated fewer regulations and a more open enrollment rule for virtual charter schools, as part of an hour of public testimony heard by the board at the June 24 meeting.

State Board Continues Debating Virtual Charter School Enrollment Cap

by Olivia Wolcott and Christina Martin

On June 24, the Oregon State Board of Education met to further discuss agenda items including the issue of virtual charter schools. Virtual charter schools have been on the Board’s agenda since the legislature passed House Bill 3660 in February 2010. HB 3660 instructed the State Board of Education to “develop a proposed governance model for virtual public schools, including virtual public charter schools,” and “review the appropriate levels and methods of funding for virtual public schools, including virtual public charter schools” (HB 3660, Section 9.2). A work group met May 27 and prepared a “straw proposal” that the entire Board examined during the June 24 meeting.

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Losing Choice in the Portland Public Redesign

Christina Martin
QuickPoint!

[audio:QuickPoint6-2-10Christina.mp3]

Click the play button to hear the audio commentary

By Christina Martin

Losing Choice in the Portland Public Redesign

Download the PDF

The Portland Public School District is considering a redesign that would close Marshall High School, convert Benson from a four-year vocational magnet into a two-year technical program, and eliminate most families’ option to transfer to other district schools. The plan is to make every neighborhood school big enough to support a wider variety of classes by keeping neighborhood children in their local schools.

This will trap many kids in schools that don’t serve their needs. Families with means will move close to the school that best fits their children’s needs. Families without means will be left behind, creating more inequity for the neediest families.

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“Public Provisions” Pitfalls

Christina Martin
Cascade Commentary

“Public Provisions” Pitfalls

By Christina Martin

Download PDF Here

Nobody likes physical pain, but often it gives us a signal that we need to change our behavior before we incur serious injury. In the sphere of social policy, government entitlements designed to avoid short-term pain too often work against natural and healthy incentives that help individuals to avoid longer-term pain. Many people will endure smaller temporary pains, work harder, save more, eat healthier and build a social network in order to avoid larger future pains like hunger or homelessness. This is not a new observation and has been commented on for thousands of years.

Our nation’s founders were well aware of the importance of incentives. In 1766 Benjamin Franklin declared in a letter to the London Chronicle that England’s poor were the most miserable in the world because England’s welfare programs had destroyed essential incentives, making people dependent on the government. He concluded after his world travels that “the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer,” but “the less [that] was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”

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Don’t Let School Choice Lose Ground in Oregon!

Christina Martin
QuickPoint!

[audio:QuickPoint5-5-10Christina.mp3]

Click the play button to hear the audio commentary

by Christina Martin

Don’t Let School Choice Lose Ground in Oregon!

Download PDF Here

During its February special session, the Oregon legislature passed a bill instructing the Oregon State Board of Education to make recommendations to the legislature this fall regarding the governance of virtual charter schools. Last month, the Board met to discuss the future of virtual education in Oregon.

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School Choice Makes “Cents” for Oregon’s Budget

Jacob Szeto
Cascade Commentary

School Choice Makes “Cents” for Oregon’s Budget

By Jeff W. Reed

As Oscar season winds down, Oregonians should remember their own cinematic achievement filmed and based in Oregon: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In the Oscar-winning movie, Jack Nicholson’s character acts crazy to forestall facing hard time. Oregon’s actions of late aren’t so dissimilar.

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Our Education System’s Costly Failures

Christina Martin
QuickPoint!

[audio:QuickPoint3-17-10Christina.mp3]

Click the play button to hear the audio commentary

Our Education System’s Costly Failures

by Christina Martin

A recent study by the Foundation for Educational Choice determined that Oregon’s high school dropouts cost the state more than $400 million each year. Dropouts are more likely to be incarcerated or to use Medicaid, and they contribute less in taxes since they earn less on average and are more likely to be unemployed or out of the workforce.

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Oregon’s High School Dropouts Cost State $400 Million Annually

For release March 10, 2010

Cascade Policy Institute & Foundation for Educational Choice

Contact

Christina Martin, Education Policy Analyst
Cascade Policy Institute
503-242-0900
christina@cascadepolicy.org

Paul DiPerna, Research Director
Foundation for Educational Choice
317-229-2131
paul@edchoice.org

Oregon’s High School Dropouts Cost State $400 Million Annually

by Christina Martin and Paul DiPerna

PORTLAND—Oregon’s high school dropouts are costing state taxpayers more than $400 million per year, according to a study released today by the Foundation for Educational Choice and Cascade Policy Institute. On average Oregon’s dropouts number 218,000 annually—greater than the state and federal governments’ findings—underscoring the state’s need for more productive schooling options particularly during tough budgetary and economic times.

The study, Oregon’s High School Dropouts: Examining the economic and social costs, finds that Oregon’s dropout rate is resulting in more enrollments in the state’s Medicaid program, higher incarceration rates, and lost state revenue (because of unemployment and lower taxable incomes).

“Oregonians are paying too high of a price for underperforming public schools,” said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Foundation for Educational Choice. “The enormous cost of these lost opportunities is proof that Oregonians need to upend the status quo of educational failure and try something different like parental school choice.”

Key findings of the report include:

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Unemployment Insurance Extensions Appeal to the Heart but Rob the Soul

Christina Martin
Cascade Commentary

Unemployment Insurance Extensions Appeal to the Heart but Rob the Soul

By Christina Martin

Download the pdf here

The federal government is likely to extend unemployment benefits with approval from both conservatives and liberals. If all federal extensions pass, Oregonians will be eligible for up to 105 weeks (about two years) of Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, compared to the usual 26 weeks. Oregon’s extended benefits bill recently passed the state legislature with unanimous support by Democrats and Republicans. The U.S. Congress’s extensions, likewise, are predicted to pass with bipartisan support. Why have these extensions received such wide approval? Are they incontrovertibly good, or do these bills just feel good?

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More Red Tape for Virtual Charter Schools

Christina Martin
QuickPoint!

[audio:QuickPoint 2-24-10.mp3]

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More Red Tape for Virtual Charter Schools
February 24, 2010

By Christina Martin

The Oregon legislature is once again increasing the web of red tape for Oregon’s virtual charter schools via House Bill 3660. Last year, the legislature passed a two-year moratorium on virtual schools. It capped enrollment and temporarily forbade future waivers from a misguided regulation requiring half of charter school students to live in the school’s home district. The regulation limits the power of virtual education to help students everywhere.

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Speech to the Junior State of America

Christina Martin
Cascade Commentary

Speech to the Junior State of America

by Christina Martin

Cascade’s Christina Martin spoke recently to around 200 high school students about the importance of political involvement and the need for reforming our educational institutions to increase school choice. Read an edited form of her speech here:

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Testimony to the House Education Committee on HB 3660

Christina Martin Cascade Commentary

Testimony to the House Education Committee on HB 3660

February 3, 2010

By Christina Martin

Good afternoon, Chair Gelser and Representatives. My name is Christina Martin. I am here on behalf of Cascade Policy Institute. Cascade is a strong advocate of increasing educational options for families. Online education is one of those important options.

Some parents have more options than others. Wealthy parents can choose online education regardless of what you do here today. But ordinary parents’ choices may rest on what you decide here. Currently, some can choose ORVA (Oregon Virtual Academy), while others cannot get permission from their district to make that choice. Parents can choose ORCA (Oregon Connections Academy), provided that ORCA is within its cap. But why should a parent have to settle for anything but her first choice?

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Taking with One Hand, Pointing Fingers with the Other

Christina MartinQuickPoint!

[audio:QuickPoint 1-20-10.mp3]
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Around the nation, many states are taking interest-free long-term loans from the federal government to extend unemployment insurance payments. Oregon is not in that position because state law requires its payroll tax rate to adjust automatically to support a healthy balance in its unemployment insurance trust fund.

Many Oregon legislators have taken notice of the federal loans, opining that it is unfair that “responsible” states like Oregon should have to fund less responsible states which did not save enough in their unemployment trust. Perhaps even worse, the federal government is giving states an incentive to continue to keep irresponsibly small savings for unemployment insurance and other programs. (more…)

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Virtual Ping Pong

Christina MartinCascade Commentary

 

Click here to read the full report in PDF format

Summary: Instead of blocking innovation in education, the Oregon Legislature should ensure that students throughout Oregon have the option of attending online charter schools. It should remove the cap on virtual charter schools, revoke any teacher or administrator certification requirements, and allow parents from any district to enroll in virtual charter schools without having to get their local district’s permission. (more…)

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Taxing Work

Christina MartinQuickPoint!

[audio:QuickPoint 12-2-09.mp3]
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This January, a hidden tax increase will penalize almost every employee and employer in Oregon. Due to the recent high unemployment rate, State payroll taxes, which fund the unemployment insurance system, will increase from an average of 1.97% of base wages to 2.76%. In other words, assuming you make at least *$32,100 (before taxes), your employer will have to pay an additional $269, for a total of $886 next year. Over time, higher payroll taxes may make Oregon’s economy worse. (more…)

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Learning from Others: Education Tax Credits are a Win-Win

Summary: Forty-four percent of Oregon parents would choose private school if they could afford it, while few actually do attend. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Simple legislation that has saved other states millions of dollars has brought hope to thousands of families in other states. (more…)

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Virtual Schools: A Study in Freedom

Christina MartinQuickPoint!

[audio:QuickPoint 10-6-09.mp3]

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The history of humanity is generally one of a handful of people trying to control the decisions of the many. From monarchies to communist governments, the tendency of government is clear because human nature is clear. It doesn’t take evil intentions to rob individuals of their freedoms; it simply takes arrogance. (more…)

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Corbett: The Little District That Could

Christina MartinCascade Commentary

 

 

Summary: Corbett High School is one of the top 100 public high schools in the U.S. Responding to parents’ demand, Corbett’s superintendent opened a charter school so students can attend Corbett’s public school without braving the bureaucracy of the inter-district transfer system.  (more…)

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Where is Oregon among the 50 Bright Stars?

Christina Martin

To celebrate Constitution Day, Cascade Policy Institute is posting the results of the Goldwater Institute’s report comparing the strength of each state’s constitution to protect freedom and secure limited government. A strong constitution is vital to preserve freedom; however, alone it is not enough. Accordingly, the report also provides a supplemental assessment of each state’s political and judicial culture.

Where did Oregon rank? Comfortably in the middle, with a very low score for poor protections of property rights and a high score for free speech.  Read more about Oregon’s ranking in 50 Bright Stars: An Assessment of Each State’s Constitutional Commitment to Limited Government.

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Corbett: The Little District That Could

Christina MartinQuickPoint!

[audio:QuickPoint 9-9-09.mp3]

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Corbett’s K-12 public school is so effective that many parents drive from far and wide so their children can attend what is likely the best public school in Oregon. Responding to parents’ demand, Corbett’s superintendant opened a charter school within the public school so students can attend Corbett’s public school without braving the bureaucracy of the inter-district transfer system. (more…)

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Will Work for Human Capital

Cascade CommentaryChristina Martin

Summary: The teenage unemployment and underutilization rates are staggeringly high. This has a negative impact on teenagers’ ability to build human capital such as job skills and education. Policies like minimum wage laws should be amended or reversed to allow teens to better develop their human capital. (more…)

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What’s the Big IDEA?Picking Winners and Losers in Education

Christina MartinCascade Commentary

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Summary: A recent U.S. Supreme Court case requiring a school district to reimburse parents of a disabled child for education expenses widens the gap between the legal rights of disabled children and non-disabled children. In contrast, education tax credits or vouchers could provide every child with an education that meets his or her individual needs. (more…)

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The Power of Choice in Virtual Charter Schools

Christina MartinCascade Commentary

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David struggled in public school. His individual learning needs were not being met. Teachers were even concerned that he would “not ever be able to pass state test[s]” because of his learning disabilities, explains his mother, Naomi Handsaker. Yet, after “one year with ORCA [a virtual charter school] he has gone from that to passing all of his state test[s] and maintaining honor roll all year long!” Like Naomi, many families are raving about virtual schools. Yet, some powerful special interest groups would like to close these innovative schools. (more…)

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Digging Holes in Oregon: The Governor’s Plan to Save the Unemployed Will Deepen the Pit

Cascade CommentaryChristina Martin

Governor Kulongoski has a plan to save Oregon’s sorry economy: raid the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund of a total of $90 million. Forty million dollars would further extend unemployment benefits “for 11,000 unemployed Oregonians who face the loss of benefits in that time period, provided no additional benefits are made available by the federal government.”[i] He would use the other $50 million to pay thousands of Oregonians to work at unknown community projects or to go into training programs. His plan (House Bill 3500) aims to create 7,100 jobs for individuals who are receiving unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, paying between $8.40 and $10 per hour (which is more than average benefits) and providing transportation and childcare for up to 2,500 low-income individuals in the program. Each participant in the job creation program could get an additional $2 per hour placed into an Individual Education Account if participants jump through a few hoops. (more…)

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SB 767 Violates Oregon’s Education Reform Promise

[audio:QP 5-20-09.mp3]

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Christina MartinQuickPoint!

Oregon received around $121 million for education as a result of the federal stimulus bill passed earlier this year. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the stimulus funds are intended to save jobs at risk of budget cuts and to advance education reforms.

According to the Department of Education, in order to receive these funds, the Oregon government promised to “collect, publish, analyze and act on basic information regarding the quality of classroom teachers, annual student improvements, college readiness, the effectiveness of state standards and assessments, progress on removing charter caps (more…)

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To Empower Families, Encourage Savings

Christina MartinQuickPoint!

Some activists are begging Oregon’s legislature to create yet another social safety net: paid family leave. Senate Bill 966 would create “insurance” benefits for family leave, subsidizing time off from work to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member. It would cost each full-time worker about $42 each year. After working six months, a worker could receive up to $300 per week for six weeks while on family leave.

To pay for a worker to take the maximum amount of leave benefits, about 42 full-time workers would have to work more than a year. Since this program would change behavior, it is likely that the tax (more…)

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My Two Cents and My Freedom:The Cost of Paid Family Leave

Christina MartinCascade Commentary

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Some Oregon activists are begging the state legislature to create yet another social safety net: paid family leave. Senate Bill 966 would create “insurance” benefits for family leave, subsidizing time off from work to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member. Proponents argue that if society values families, then this bill is vital. (more…)

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Education Tax Credits Can Save Oregon Money

Christina Martin
Cascade Commentary
Click here to read the full report in PDF format

Summary: House Bill 2754 would create two education tax credits, one for families’ own out-of-pocket education expenses and another for donations to scholarship-granting organizations for low-income or disabled students. According to a fiscal analysis by Dr. Eric Fruits, HB 2754’s tax credits have potential to save money for the state of Oregon. (more…)

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Expanding a Broken System Only Widens the Cracks

Christina MartinCascade Commentary
By Christina Martin

Summary

The Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act, tacked onto the current version of the proposed federal stimulus bill, provides an incentive to states to modify UI to ameliorate some of the system’s more publicized inadequacies. However, true UI modernization requires real innovation, not more of the same. (more…)

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Bailing Out School Choice

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[audio:QP021109.mp3]

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The time for an education tax credit is now. As the economy suffers, even more families are struggling to afford the best education for their children. A $1,000 tax credit for your own children’s K-12 education expenses, or for donations to scholarship programs for children in low-income families would ease the burden on many Oregonians in these tough economic times. It would also increase parents’ ability to choose the best education for their children.

One state representative recently commented that considering the anticipated budget shortfall, this would be a terrible time to create an education tax credit. The truth, however, is that the legislature’s priorities lay elsewhere. (more…)

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