This year marks the 50th anniversary of Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman's education voucher proposal. Here's some gold-standard research to commemorate the birth of an idea?
School choice is perhaps the most widely researched education issue. Yet remarkably little research finds its way to the pages of your morning paper. For example, in an analysis of 30 years of school choice studies, Columbia University researchers found "A sizeable majority of these studies report beneficial effects of competition across all outcomes," including higher student test scores, graduation rates, and teacher salaries.
In five cites with vouchers programs, scholars find vouchers are linked to higher student performance "in virtually every case."
Harvard University economist Caroline M. Hoxby finds school choice is a tide that lifts all boats. For example, in Milwaukee public schools facing competition from private schools accepting vouchers, student achievement rose as much as 4.7 national percentile points faster per year than in similar schools not facing competition. Writing on these findings for the National Bureau of Economic Research Digest, Linda Gorman notes, "Such gains are virtually unprecedented for an American school reform."
Andrew J. Coulson, senior fellow in education policy for the Mackinac Center, concludes, "The consensus of the valid empirical research is clear: Competitive markets of minimally regulated non-government schools regularly outperform state school monopolies. They do this, moreover, both at the level of individual student effects and broader social outcomes." Competition and freedom-ideas that never get old.
All together now: an increase in the minimum wage will reduce the number of jobs.
As much as we might not like it, there are certain realities that simply cannot be reversed. The laws of supply and demand are an example. For all the chest-thumping about the indignity and lack of compassion in current minimum wage laws, they're for all the wrong reasons.
At both the federal and state level, legislators are considering raising the minimum wage with the honorable goal of increasing wages for America's poorest laborers. A federal proposal would raise the minimum 40 percent to $7.25 an hour from $5.15. A state proposal would raise it from the current federal minimum to $7.10.
These proposals gain steam because of the attractive sentiment that they will do something for those working for the minimum, giving a little more of a chance to gain independence and save for the future. The cruelty in our current laws, however, stem not from the low wage floor, but rather from the existence of one. Because of the immutable laws of supply and demand, a minimum wage actually reduces job. And as much as we would like to see hard-working minimum wage earners earn more, the alternative is no job at all.
Steve Chapman, in his column for the Chicago Tribune, briefly outlines some significant research on the subject, including the much heralded Card-Krueger study (which purported to find a net increase in jobs after a minimum wage hike). Chapman concludes, as have numerous economists, that the study was flawed.
At best, an increase in the wage floor can be neutral (harming some and helping others in equal proportion), but most likely is a net loss for the labor market.
Does preschool improve school preparation and performance? Researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research report "prekindergarten increases reading and mathematics skills at school entry, but also increases behavioral problems and reduces self-control. Furthermore, the effects of prekindergarten on skills largely dissipate by the spring of first grade, although the behavioral effects do not." These findings add to a large body of evidence reported in Assessing Proposals for Preschool and Kindergarten showing preschool is not unequivocally beneficial for all children on all measures. In fact, sometimes preschool is harmful to children on certain outcome measures. Preschool programs are neither necessary nor sufficient for academic achievement.
In an Arizona Republic article, reporter Justin Juozapavicius explains how the Mormon Church and Dennis Barney, a private developer, are slowing turning around a drug-infested Mesa neighborhood.
Proponents of eminent domain have long argued that the power to seize private land is necessary in order to rid cities of blight. But the Founders of the nation designed eminent domain to allow the government to build roads, bridges, and other improvements for "public use."
As Mr. Barney is demonstrating, revitalization of blighted areas need not require the government to forcibly seize and evict private property owners. Such improvements can be made voluntarily, as developers negotiate with landowners to purchase and redevelop property.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision this June in the case of Kelo v. City of New London, which, with any luck, will clarify and constrain local governments' authority to use eminent domain as a tool to help developers.
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