What's a government to do when it needs to raise taxes to pay for another new program? Sneak the tax increase onto a special ballot, of course.
Voters in Scottsdale, Cave Creek, and Fountain Hills will decide today whether to authorize yearly budget overrides totaling nearly $4.5 million for all-day kindergarten.
This, despite the fact that all-day kindergarten does not work. The National Center for Education Statistics finds no lasting reading, math, or science achievement differences between children who attend half-day and full-day kindergarten.
Set aside the shortcomings of all-day K, and a troubling question yet lingers for voters: Why are these tax increases, like so many others, being offered in an election that last year saw a 13.9 percent turnout? The May 2004 Scottsdale special election asked voters, among other things, to pass a new sales tax to fund the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Predictably, those few who stood to benefit from the largess turned out to vote in greater numbers than those who would foot the bill, and the tax increase passed.
If voters want precious education dollars to go toward all-day K, let's give the question the attention it deserves. Put the question to the majority of voters-in a general election.
Realtors are trying to limit online real estate listings to keep out online brokers, who often charge less than the traditional full-service 6 percent commission. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether the practice is anti-competitive and violates anti-trust laws.
This is just the latest example of an industry seeking to block internet commerce. Wine distributors have similarly impeded online purchases and interstate shipping. The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard a case involving the scheme. The Goldwater Institute submitted an amicus brief arguing that such restrictions are unconstitutional and deny consumers the benefits of a free market: more choice, greater convenience, and lower prices.
Although e-commerce sales have risen, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers and wholesalers oppose increased internet transactions. In testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives, Ted Cruz, director of the Federal Trade Commission Office of Policy and Planning, stated that existing businesses may be using government authority to keep out competition from new entrants. Thus, American consumers are paying a minimum of $15 billion more for goods and services as a result of e-commerce prohibitions.
The achievement gap among black, Latino, and white high school seniors remains large despite modest reductions from 1972 to 1992, according to to the RAND Corporation.
During this time, schools became more racially segregated and authors believe "the convergence of black-white and Latino-white mathematics gaps might have been even greater if the minority composition of the schools black and Latino students attended had not increased over this 20 year period." Lead author Mark Berends told Education Week, "If the trends that we hear in the larger literature and from our own analysis hold up, that may be an explanation for the persistent inequality we see in black-white test scores over the last ten years."
RAND believes school choice, including vouchers, could help "promote desegregation in ways that provide educational opportunities and improve academic achievement." More than half a century after "separate but equal" officially ended, it's time, as Berends observes, "to think about extending opportunities not only to students but to parents of students in schools."
In the latest federal budget, President Bush has proposed elimination of community-development block grants, and it couldn't come soon enough. As part of the failed War on Poverty initiatives, these grants have cost around $100 billion, "with little to show for the effort," points out Steven Malanga in the Spring 2005 issue of City Journal. "Local officials squandered the billions by financing unworkable projects that often went bust, investing in new businesses that couldn't survive in depressed neighborhoods, and funding social programs with little idea of how they might actually strengthen their communities." Because they lacked accountability and were subject to more politicking than policy analysis, they served only to reinforce the poor practices of declining cities.
This tends to be true of any ham-handed, yet "targeted" approach to development. While the intentions of the federal block-grant program were noble, a good policy it does not make. Moreover, final elimination of these grants should leave wary those local developers who use federal funding as a benchmark for the desirability or future success of their favored project, such as, say, light rail.
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