Despite massive spending, underachievement prevails

r-SAN-FRANCISCO-MINIMUM-WAGE-HIKE-large570Did you know that the number of people on food stamps has grown over the past 13 years by nearly 30 million, which accounts for almost 20% of households receiving taxpayer-funded food subsidies?  At the same time, the federal government is spending more per household than ever before – in fact, a 152 percent increase since 1965.

Our middle class is shrinking – the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, due in large part to insanely complex government rules and regulations that only those with resources can bypass.  In fact, the top 7% of households own 63% of the nation’s wealth.  During the so-called economy recovery, the other 93% of families lost wealth, putting into question the effectiveness of big spending government stimulus packages and who, in reality, the recovery truly helped.

ABC News reports that nearly 50 million people in the United States live in poverty, but yet, most Americans view our nation as the most prosperous in the world, fundamentally superior to our foreign counterparts despite our poor education system, insanely expensive healthcare industry and THE biggest government that we’ve ever had.

In fact, our healthcare system spends twice as much per person than any other developed nation in the world, a cost that accounts for more than 16% of our nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Our healthcare spending has increased at twice the rate of inflation, but yet our pharmaceuticals continue to kill and emergency rooms remain clogged with people using it as their primary care service.

A much-maligned segment of the population, the top 1% of income earners in the country have a greater net worth than the bottom 90% put together.  Perhaps this is due to nearly a quarter of all jobs in the United States that pay a wage of less than $10/hour.

Worse, spending in Washington continues to grow, more than it ever has despite record tax revenues.  Federal politicians managed to rack up $755 billion in deficits through the first eleven months of 2013′s fiscal year.  Spending during the same period amounted to a whopping $3.2 trillion.

Now, the government wants to take over healthcare.  Already the most expensive healthcare system in the entire world, the 10,500-page Obamacare monstrosity has authorized the government to spend even more money.  The new healthcare system’s broken Healthcare.gov web site cost the American taxpayer $634 million to build.  Obamacare has caused many insurance companies to cancel policies and create more expensive alternatives.  Premiums have risen and job hours have decreased to sub-30 hours to avoid Obamacare penalties.

The evidence of the big government effect is clear and overwhelming, and it is costing the American taxpayer trillions of dollars in reckless spending.  Both the Democrats and Republicans represent the cause of these problems, and our nation will never truly fix our ailing spending habits until we replace those responsible for it.

Education experts also oppose Common Core

Common CoreJust about anyone who opposes the Common Core national curriculum standards, currently under serious fire in New York, is either a kook or a self-interested schemer. That, at least, is the impression an impartial observer would get from listening to many Core supporters. But the reality is quite the opposite: Education thinkers from across the political spectrum are taking on — and apart — the Core.

In the Empire State, education commissioner John King infamously declared parents and concerned citizens opposed to the Core “special interests.” He made the accusation as he cancelled a series of town hall-style meetings scheduled across the state. After major blowback, he scheduled new events, but the message King delivered was clear: Many Core opponents only care about themselves, not kids.

Alas, this marginalization strategy is not confined to New York. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, arguably the Core’s greatest champion, has accused Core opponents of employing conspiracy theories. And, in an op-ed being shopped to outlets around the country, Michael J. Petrilli and Michael Brickman of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute characterize Core opponents as a “small but vocal minority of conservatives” coupled with a bit of “the far left.” Read: scary fringe types.

Of course there are some Core opponents who say outlandish things, but that is the exception, not the rule. And much more important is a diverse group of people opposing the Core who are the exact opposite of the schemer stereotype: education experts.

The Common Core is opposed by scholars at several leading think tanks on both the right and left-hand side of the political landscape, including the Heritage Foundation, The Hoover Institution, the Brookings Institution and my own Cato Institute. My research has shown that there is essentially no meaningful evidence that national standards lead to superior educational outcomes.

Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Eric Hanushek, a well-known education economist and supporter of standards-based education reform, has reached a similar conclusion about likely Core impotence. He recently wrote: “We currently have very different standards across states, and experience from the states provides little support for the argument that simply declaring more clearly what we want children to learn will have much impact.”

Hanushek’s conclusion dovetails nicely with Common Core opposition from Tom Loveless, a scholar at the left-leaning Brookings Institution. In 2012, Loveless demonstrated that moving to national standards would almost certainly have little, if any, positive effect because the performance of states has had very little connection to the rigor or quality of their standards, and there is much greater achievement variation within states than among them.

In fact, Loveless has been one of the clearest voices saying the Core is not a panacea for America’s education woes, writing: “Don’t let the ferocity of the oncoming debate fool you. The empirical evidence suggests that the Common Core will have little effect on American students’ achievement. The nation will have to look elsewhere for ways to improve its schools.”

Moving to arguably the far left, prolific education historian Diane Ravitch has also taken on the Core, noting that it is untested, was assembled behind closed doors, and was essentially foisted on schools by the federal Race to the Top funding contest. That it also seems intended to produce huge increases in test failures — as occurred when New York employed Core-aligned tests without Core-aligned curricula — seemed to push Ravitch over the edge.

“This is what we know: the Common Core tests cause a huge decline in test scores. Passing rates fell 30 percent in Kentucky and about the same in New York,” Ravitch wrote on her blog recently. “Where are we heading? It won’t do to keep saying, as [U.S. Education] Secretary Duncan likes to, that only extremists oppose the standards. Reasonable people question them as well.”

There is an extremely well-informed opposition to the Core, and dismissing opponents as loony or selfish does New York’s children no service.

As Commissioner King picks up his statewide Core tour, he owes it to the kids to seriously contemplate the massive evidence against his favored reform.

Originally posted on Cato.org.

Ron Paul: We need a free market in education

In addition to shredding civil liberties, launching a utopian global war for democracy, and going on a spending spree that would make LBJ blush, the so-called “conservative” Bush administration dramatically increased federal control over education via the “No Child Left Behind” act. During my time in Congress I heard nothing but complaints about this law from teachers, administrators, and, most importantly, students and parents. Most of the complaints concerned No Child Left Behind’s testing requirements, which encouraged educators to “teach to the test.”

Sadly, but not surprisingly, instead of improving education by repealing No Child Left Behind’s testing and other mandates, the Obama administration is increasing national control over schools via the “Common Core” initiative. Common Core is a new curriculum developed by a panel of so-called education experts. The administration is trying to turn Common Core into a national curriculum by offering states increased federal education funding if they impose Common Core’s curriculum on their public schools. This is yet another example of the government using money stolen from the people to bribe states into obeying federal dictates.

Critics of Common Core say it “dumbs down” education by replacing traditional English literature with “informational texts”. So students will read such inspiring materials as studies by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the EPA’s “Recommended Levels of Insulation,” and “Invasive Plant Inventory” by California’s Invasive Plant Council. It is doubtful that reading federal reports will teach students the habits of critical thinking and skepticism of government that the Founders considered essential to maintaining a free republic.

Like Obamacare, Common Core (now dubbed “ObamaCore” by some) has sparked a backlash in the states, leading some to propose legislation forbidding state participation in the scheme. I hope these efforts lead to states not just opting out of Common Core, but out of No Child Left Behind and all other federal education programs as well.

Parents can also effectively “opt out” of programs like Common Core by seeking alternatives to government education. It is no coincidence that, as federal control over education increases, the quality of public education has declined and more parents have chosen to homeschool.

To support these parents, I have established my own homeschool curriculum. Unlike Common Core, we do not dumb down any of our offerings. Instead, the goal is to provide students with a rigorous education in history, math, English, foreign languages, and other core subjects necessary to a well-rounded education. Unlike the top-down model of nationalized education, the homeschool curriculum is deigned to encourage maximum input from parents and students. While the curriculum will reflect my belief, and interest, in Austrian economics, libertarian political theory, and the history of the struggle against state power, the curriculum is being carefully designed to not show bias toward any one religion. I hope all parents of any faith—or no religious beliefs at all—will feel comfortable using the curriculum.

I believe it is important for those of us concerned with education and liberty to fight our battles locally. We must oppose further encroachment on the autonomy of local public schools and work to roll-back existing interference, while encouraging and supporting the growth of homeschooling and other alternative education movements. The key to restoring quality education is to replace the bureaucratic control of education with a free market in education. Parents should have the freedom to select the type of education that best suits their child’s unique needs.

Ron Paul to start small government think tank

Ron Paul has kept quite busy since his retirement from Congress.  Recently, I reported on a new home schooling curriculum spearheaded by Dr. Paul that promises to better prepare students for college and the real world.  Now, the Libertarian-minded ex-Congressman will announce plans this week to start a new think tank that he promises will promote small government ideals and a reduced role of federal government in the lives of the American people.

Called the “Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity”, it will “serve as the focal point of a new coalition that crosses political, ideological, and party lines”, according to Paul’s Facebook page.  The think tank will focus on two main issues, education and the coming generation – our nation’s future leaders.  “The neo-conservative era is dead,” Paul wrote, citing the chaos and turmoil at the hands of irresponsible politics and unaccountable leaders.

During his announcement on Wednesday, Paul will be joined by a couple of big-named Libertarian-minded individuals like Judge Andrew Napolitano and Lew Rockwell of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

The Ron Paul school curriculum available online

Former Congressman Ron Paul has apparently been hard at work since his retirement from Congress this year, releasing a curriculum designed for parents who home school their children in subjects like western civilization, the free market and liberty, public speaking, English and history, along with science and math courses all the way up through Calculus and Statistics.

Known as the Ron Paul Curriculum, the courses are available online in video form, and parents can access the course material for free up through the fifth grade level.  Paul says that students who take the curriculum and apply themselves will enter college at the junior level, testing out of lower-level classes taught by government-funded “educators”.

Ron Paul to write book on school choice, free markets

Ron-Paul-265881-1-402Recently retired Republican Representative and Libertarian-leaning Ron Paul has signed on to write a new book, titled “New School Manifesto”, that will push ideas that advocate for a free market approach to the United States’ educational system.

The book is set to be released in September, just as students return to class.

The book is said to reject the state-run monopoly on education in the country and instead focuses on giving people an affordable choice on where to send their children by creating competition through the free market.  Paul says that parents should be the ultimate authority on their child’s education, not government.

Paul uses the postal service’s competitors, like UPS and FedEx, to support the idea that competition results in better and cheaper services for everyone.

“Ron Paul’s beliefs are always controversial, and even if you disagree with his principles, his arguments will make you think,” said Grand Central Publishing, Paul’s publisher.