Civitas Review

State Government's 'Waste of the Week'

1
Aug
26

This week marks a new regular feature by the Civitas Institute entitled "Waste of the Week." Think that NC state government has been "cut to the bone" and has been tightly trimmed to focus exclusively on 'core services' of state gov't?

Think again.

Each week Civitas will highlight a state government office, agency or expenditure that few would be hard-pressed to defend as a core function of state government. Many of these items may not come with a large price tag, but you’ve got to start somewhere. Consider these the “low hanging fruit” that should be easy for state legislators and budget writers to eliminate.

Those lawmakers who claim to want to limit the size and scope of state government should pay close attention, as should voters. If legislators can’t even find it in themselves to eliminate the items featured in this series, then what will they be willing to eliminate?

The first installment in this series focuses on state occupational licensing boards and commissions. These are groups that require licensing and other unneccessary regulations for mostly service-sector professionals, and serve as a means to protect existing businesses from potential competition. Restricted competition hurts consumers.

A recent state audit also pointed out that these boards and commissions have such little state oversight that there is not even agreement as to exactly how many there are.

To learn more about this week's "Waste of the Week," click here.

Voucher ruling will be appealed; but when

Aug
22

Like most supporters of school choice, I'm disappointed by yesterday's ruling  by Judge Hobgood declaring the Opportunity Scholarship legislation unconstitutional.  The ruling  has given parents and schools one more headache and jeopardized the futures of many students.

If you're a parent or school choice supporter the deck certainly looks stacked.

The "technical glitches" of last week which prevented schools from receiving their first payments  appear highly questionable.

I'm also not to thrilled to see all the courtroom rejoicing over a decision that effectively strips kids  of an opportunity for a better education? But I guess NCAE officials had no problem containing their glee.  I guess the children only matter if they attend public schools.

I'm told by attorneys in the know that an emergency appeal to expedite a ruling was drafted and sent to the AG at 10 this morning.  As of now mid-afternoon, the AG's office was still reviewing it. It's now 5:15. So someone failed to expedite the process.

Why do I get the feeling that there seems to be too many people who don't really don't care if needy kids get a chance at getting a good education.

Still I'm optimistic. Hobgood's earlier decision was reversed by the State Supreme Court. And there are 2400 reasons why the court of appeals should expedite the case — if not today, then next week.  Let's hope the judges feel the same way.

NC Lawmakers Resurrect Bill for Corporate Welfare

2
Aug
21

Late yesterday, NC lawmakers brought back to life a bill that had been essentially killed about 6 weeks ago in order to funnel taxpayer dollars to a paper mill in Canton. From USA Today:

The House debated the paper mill bill, which was taken off the unfavorable calendar and put through a quick Rules Committee hearing Speaker Thom Tillis called "a brief meeting around the desk," before voting for it 88-9.

The bill will give Evergreen Packaging $12 million over 6 years.

The company wants the money to help pay for new natural gas fired boilers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is forcing it to replace its old coal-fired boilers, which the company said would cost $50 million and includes new supply lines.

Lawmakers defended the taxpayer handout saying the EPA regulations amounted to an unfunded mandate on Evergreen. They did not, however, explain why taxpayers should be forced to pay for the company's compliance. Furthermore, it is far from certain that Evergreen was going to close up shop in Canton if they did not receive the government goodies. To see the vote on the bill, click here.

All companies face compliance costs of varying degrees. It sets a very dangerous precedent by state lawmakers with this bill which forces taxpayers to foot the bill for a specific company's compliance costs. How many other businesses will now send their lobbyists to Raleigh to ask for taxpayer bailouts to pay for compliance costs?

House Speaker Thom Tillis also hinted that the crony capitalism may not be finished.

Tillis said the General Assembly could be called back to deal with economic incentive money meant for the Department of Commerce that was part of GOP split on Tuesday.

That is in reference to a newly-proposed "Job Catalyst Fund" which would be a slush fund for the Commerce Department to help bribe companies to expand or locate in NC – using your tax dollars of course.

NC's Economic Growth on Uptick in Most Recent Years

Aug
20

The folks at Opportunity Ohio have compiled a 50-state analysis of state GDP growth, breaking the growth rates down into 16-year, 4-year, and 2-year periods. You can see the breakdown here.

Looking at North Carolina's growth rates over the various time horizons is interesting. NC's growth rate over the past 16 years (1997-2013) ranks 23rd, right about the middle of the pack. Our growth rate looking at the past 4 years, however, drops to 28th. But then focusing on just the last two years (2011-13), NC's growth rate rises to 12th best in the nation.

Do policy changes help explain the improved relative growth rate in the last 2 years?

Poll: 22 % of teachers are unsatisfactory; teachers say 13 percent of colleagues unsatisfactory

Aug
19

It's Christmas morning if you're interested in finding out what the public thinks on major education issues; Education Next has released its annual national Poll .  If you want a quick read  Education Next  provides a good summary of results. In addition, this  morning's  Wall Street Journal (subscription required) contains an opinion piece by Harvard Professor Paul Peterson where he talks about how the public ranked teachers and how teachers ranked colleagues.  Peterson writes:

About 22 % of public school teachers are not performing adequately in the public eye, if one assumes that satisfactory work requires at least a C grade . Citizens do like a majority of the teachers in their local school district, saying on average, that 51 %  of them deserve an A or a B. But 13% earned a D    and no less than 9% of teachers were given an F.

Parent surveys are nearly identical. Parents give 56% of the teachers in their local schools one of the two top grades, but they  hand out a D to 13% and an F to 10%.

Teachers ratings are perhaps the most telling. Educators tend to be the most generous in giving high marks, saying that 69 percent of their colleagues in the local school district deserve an A or B. Not everyone scores so well. Teachers report that 8% percent of their colleagues deserve a D, and that 5% deserve an F.

The talk about underperforming teachers naturally leads to teacher tenure.  So what does the public think about tenure?   Respondents to the Ednext poll oppose granting tenure to teachers by over a 2 to 1 margin. The public also thinks that if tenure is awarded it should be tied to how well students are performing in the classroom.

The survey also covers other important topics. .

Common Core: Respondents remain split on Common Core. However, it is interesting to note when the term Common Core is used in the question, as opposed to state standards,  opposition increased significantly. Results confirm what many believe; Common Core is a toxic term.

School Choice: Poll results show support for school choice remains strong but varies depending on how a program is structured and financed.

The EdNext PEPG Poll contains lots of interesting information. One of the best things about the poll it is that many of the questions have been asked in multiple years, so you can often track changes in public sentiment. It's well worth reading.