Civitas Review

Proof Govt. Can Be Trimmed


IMG_2141 copyCan government be cut down in size? Over at NC Capitol Connection, our colleague Matt Caulder reports on one move in that direction: the privatization of the state motor pool.

It's a familiar story. There was a perceived need for a supply of vehicles for emergencies. Over time, the size of the pool expanded. But the costs grew, and a state office can't supply the same kind of service as a private enterprise. The NC Gear effort spotted this, and the motor pool will shut down at the end of this week.

So, do you think there are other state projects that have over time mushroomed in size and cost, while providing inferior service, and that could also be downsized or closed entirely?

Just asking.

Are College Students Wising Up?


By Jenna Robinson

For the fourth straight year, college enrollment is down. Data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center show that this fall, enrollments at colleges and universities dropped for the eighth semester in a row, down 1.7 percent below what they were last fall.

Jay Schalin suggests that this might be due to students making savvier choices: “It may be that, despite the shrill rhetoric pushing for higher rates of college attendance, young people are figuring out the odds on their own and seeking other alternatives.”

Schalin shows in this article from the Pope Center that it’s actually fairly easy for a prospective student to figure out his future chances of cashing in on his college degree. Elite colleges and STEM majors deliver the best chances of monetary success. Read More »

SCOTUS hearing arguments in Friedrichs today


Today, the United States Supreme Court is hearing arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a critical free speech case in which the Civitas Institute Center for Law and Freedom (CLF) joined an amicus brief last year. The case presents the question of whether a state employee can be forced to pay union dues to a public sector union with which that employee disagrees politically. In other words, can a state employee be forced to bankroll political expression with which they do not agree? The plaintiff, Rebecca Friedrichs, does not think she should have to do this as a condition of being a public school teacher.

The Left has ratcheted up its rhetoric in terms of vilifying the case — an indicator of its potential impact. The Huffington Post has expressed concern that the Supreme Court could crush public sector unions. Meanwhile, The American Prospect fears that a favorable outcome for the plaintiff could lead to more religion in schools. And the Daily Kos referred to the case as just one more episode in Justice Alito's crusade against unions.

One thing the Left does not seem at all concerned about is free speech. Here, a teacher's attempt to free herself from compelled political expression clashes with the progressive orthodoxy. When pressed on the fact that she is ostensibly allowed to opt out of paying for the union's political activity and support only its collective bargaining efforts, Friedrichs provided this response:

Here in California, most public officials have been put into office by union dollars. So you’ve put them into office and now you come to the bargaining table. The official you put into office is one side and the union is on the other side and you’re bargaining for taxpayer money, only the taxpayer doesn’t get invited to the table. That’s political, in my opinion.

Collective bargaining is being used to push for things that I would never agree to…We’re being asked to fund collective bargaining that’s highly political using taxpayer money and I don’t have a choice.

After hearing arguments today, the Supreme Court should reach a decision by this summer.

Quality Counts 2016: NC Score: C-


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Earlier this week Education Week released Quality Counts 2016. ( subscription required)  The report gives overall grades and scores to states based on criteria such as chances for success, K-12 achievement and school finance.  In 2016, the nation received an overall  grade of C (74.4), the same letter grade as last year. North Carolina received an overall grade of C-(70.6).  The state’s  neighbors were pretty much in the same neighborhood;  Georgia C- (72.0); Tennessee C- (70.9) South Carolina C- (70.0). In a ranking of the states, North Carolina finished 37th

Education Week has sought to provide measures of state education quality for almost twenty years. You can quibble with the methodology. Nevertheless QC represents one of the more accepted and longstanding attempts to get a handle on an elusive topic.

North Carolina’s rank of 37th should raise concerns for obvious reasons; even more so since the state received a $400 million Race-to-the-Top grant to transform the public schools.  In 2011, North Carolina's Quality Counts ranking was a "C " grade and ranked 19th .  Five years later, it’s a "C-" grade  and eighteen places lower.

Did funding from Race to the Top improve education? I know it's not a one-to-one exact match, but the lack of evidence speaks very loudly.

Does America Need Liberal Education More Than Ever?


By Jenna A. Robinson

That's what Wesleyan president Michael Roth suggests in his new book, which George Leef reviews here.

Leef finds that the argument Roth lays out in defense of liberal education in Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, is unconvincing:

The problem is that Roth, who seems to be “preaching to members of the church of the liberal arts” (as Peter Wood writes in his review of the book in the fall 2014 issue of Academic Questions), never produces a scintilla of evidence that the sort of education he favors actually produces such wonderful results.

But Leef finds another part of Beyond the University more compelling — Roth's discussion of online education and MOOCs, which he came to embrace after designing one himself. That course, The Modern and the Postmodern, is available on Coursera.

But in the end, Leef finds more to pan in Roth's book than to praise. You can read the whole review here.

Jenna A. Robinson is president of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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