The most pervasive public policy myth in Oregon is that we are not spending enough money on public education. This supposed lack of funding drives legislative and school board debates across the state. It also drives the constant calls for “tax reform,” which are veiled attempts to raise taxes.
As the last decade ended, healthcare spending by Oregon’s state and local governments was 57 percent higher than in demographically comparable states. This startling statistic, from Cascade’s just-released report, How Does Oregon Government Spending Rank? should energize policy makers to look for better, cheaper ways to deliver healthcare services to Oregonians.
Test scores are one way to judge our public schools. But no one likely knows the condition and quality of public schools better than the teachers who work in them every day. Whether these teachers send their own children to public schools more or less frequently than their neighbors may thus be a strong indicator of how good our schools really are.
Now, an analysis of the 2000 U.S. Census Long Form data gives us this answer.* That year, 17.5 percent of all families in the nation’s fifty largest cities sent their kids to private schools, while 21.5 percent of public school teachers did the same.
In the Portland Metropolitan area the disparity was greater.** Here, only 12.7 percent of all families sent their kids to private schools, but 20 percent of public school teachers apparently decided that their children deserved a better school than their districts offered. Doing some basic grade school math shows us that, on average, teachers in the largest cities are 23 percent more likely to send their children to private schools, but inPortland, they are 57 percent more likely to do so.
Those who know our schools best are exercising school choice the most. They know that some schools are better than others. Offering all families comprehensive school choice is long overdue.
* Denis P. Doyle, Brian Diepold and David A. DeSchryver, “Where Do Public School Teachers Send Their Kids to School?”, Thomas B. Fordham Institute, September 7, 2004,
** The Portland Metropolitan area is officially known as the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Approximately 80% of its population is in Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Columbia and Yamhill counties in Oregon; the remainder is in Clark and Skamania counties in Washington. About one-third of the cities in the study, including Portland, included nearby suburban areas. Since private school enrollment is generally higher in urban areas, the urban-suburban area results in the study are likely somewhat smaller than if the researchers had been able to find urban-only data for those cities, again, including Portland.
This report updates and expands on a previous Cascade Policy Institute report by Dr. Pozdena. The purpose of this report is to compare Oregon’s state and local spending level against that of other states through benchmarking.
Benchmarking helps Oregon citizens understand the extent to which their state’s spending choices differ from those of other states. Since individual states vary widely in both their ability to pay for public services and in population characteristics that determine the demand for spending, simple ratio comparisons are insufficient to fairly benchmark individual states. (more…)
Conventional wisdom tells us that Republicans fight for balanced budgets and smaller government. Not true, according to Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman and host of MSNBC’s Scarborough Country.
Congressman Joe, as his constituents called him, helped take control of the House of Representatives when 73 “barbarians” were elected to “storm the gleaming gates of Congress” in 1994. Led by newly appointed Speaker Newt Gingrich, they pledged to balance the budget and reduce the role of government in the lives of Americans. Ten years later, and out of office for three, Scarborough blows the whistle on members of his own party in his new book, Rome Wasn’t Burnt in a Day.
Politicians often use science as a source of statements to place their policy proposals beyond debate. One of their policy goals is to minimize risk. Nothing is without risk, but politicians and policy advocates often treat risk as an absolute hazard to eliminate at all costs, not as one factor to weigh with a proposal’s other detriments and rewards. A politician can gain greatly by uncovering a risk and lose greatly by championing a risky proposal, even if its benefits far outweigh its risks. When politicians can’t manipulate and exploit science to support their policy proposals, they will sometimes try to suppress its findings. Scientists can play the risk game, too, usually when writing proposals for government-funded research.
The new book, Politicizing Science: The Alchemy of Policymaking, contains essays by eleven scientists telling how political uses of science too often corrupt the scientific search for truth. The Hoover Institution and the George C. Marshall Institute published the book in the hope that its insights will promote the beneficial use of science and “discourage purely opportunistic behavior.”
Unproven assertions of risk are accepted as fact because it is impossible to prove the negative that contradicts them. Editor Michael Gough observes that, lacking a means of such verification, the “consensus” of some committee is often promoted to support eliminating a particular risk.
The most avid activists advance the “precautionary principle,” which reasons that if something’s dangers are unknown, it should be banned completely, just to be on the safe side. Believers in the precautionary principle ignore any potential benefits of a device or substance. DDT saved hundreds of millions of human lives by killing the mosquitoes that spread malaria, but was banned because of its potential to harm certain birds.
Politicizing Science includes many accounts of science-abusing processes in public policy and government regulation, covering issues ranging from nuclear power generation to “global warming.” A chapter on chemical use in Sweden tells how scientific guidance was displaced by the precautionary principle, resulting in significant over-regulation.
In his essay “Science or Political Science,” Patrick J. Michaels evaluates the U. S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (USNA), the document that alleges the existence of ongoing “global warming” and which is so often used by alarmists to urge ratification of the Kyoto protocol. Prof. Michaels compared the USNA’s climate-change models with the actual observed temperatures during the 20th century and found the models did “worse than no model at all” in predicting temperatures. Because science consists of seeing whether predictions made from an asserted hypothesis do indeed happen, a true scientific model of climate change would actually predict climate change. Michaels observes that the present USNA is “clearly not science” and more like a “politically based polemic.” He recommends that a new USNA be created by a team of objective-minded scientists.
Other essays in Politicizing Science address such topics as spotted owls, lynx, wolves, DDT, dioxins, PCBs, endocrine disrupters, carcinogens, pharmaceuticals, herbicides, pesticides, Agent Orange, cold fusion and the competition for water. “Science Gored” recounts the bizarre claims and “unprecedented interference” by Al Gore in anti-technology actions.
The final essay rivals a detective story for suspense as Dr. S. Fred Singer reveals what was uncovered in pre-trial discovery when Dr. Singer found it necessary to defend himself and the late Dr. Roger Revelle by suing a Harvard scientist for libel. The very last page prints the retraction and apology statement from a scientist who had served as a political henchman against doctors Revelle and Singer. Dr. Singer’s account inspires the hope that legitimate science will meet worthy advocates in court and in public opinion.
Property rights — and liberty — were victorious on July 30th when the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously reversed a ruling from two decades ago. The Court’s ruling halts governmental abuse of eminent domain in that state for “economic development.”
A new tool for helping the poor is proving effective around the world. Microfinance institutions provide small loans and other financial services to low income individuals who are considered unbankable by traditional lending standards, usually because they do not have the collateral to secure a loan from a bank.
These nongovernmental organizations are (more…)
In 2003, Portland and Multnomah County politicians cried crisis and pushed a new three-year “temporary” county income tax, mainly to benefit education. This November, county voters, most of them city residents, will have the opportunity to recall the remaining two years of the income tax. The free-spending politicians who cried crisis have given voters good reasons to do so.
In 2003, the county hired a new (more…)
Many public school supporters blame poor academic results on stingy taxpayers. On July 8, more evidence was released showing that funding is not the problem. Arthur Academy, a public charter school in the David Douglas School District near Portland, just announced amazing achievement results.
In business just two years, Arthur Academy saw (more…)