Learning Lessons from Teach for America

Teach for America has made a significant impact in Indiana and in states across the country. The now nearly 25-year effort to bolster the teaching profession has adapted to changes in the education landscape and earned the support of lawmakers through proven results. Heartland reports:

As shifting employment opportunities and reform movements alter the U.S. education landscape, one organization has received steadily increasing support from lawmakers.

Teach for America (TFA) began as Wendy Kopp’s senior thesis in 1989. A Princeton University undergraduate, Kopp wanted to improve poverty-stricken urban schools by recruiting young, enthusiastic, and persistent college-educated adults into education. In 1990, 500 new college grads joined the first TFA class as teachers who bypassed traditional teacher education.

Kopp started “a Peace Corps for urban education,” said Alan Borsuk, a senior fellow at Marquette University Law School. “There was a much bigger need then for a shot in the arm for urban teaching, a lot of jobs open, and it tapped into a realistic [desire] that college grads had that they wanted to do something to help.”

Now TFA is active in almost half the states, this year supporting more than 10,000 young teachers. Donations provide 70 percent of TFA’s income, with governments picking up the other 30 percent. TFA recruits heavily from Ivy League and top-rated public universities, and was listed as one of Fortune’s top 100 companies to work for in 2013. Corps members commit to a two-year stint in needy public schools.

Study Says
Teach for America has been controversial, however, because its teachers get good results from students with only a summer of teacher training before their two-year placement.

Studies in Tennessee, Louisiana, and North Carolina have found students with TFA teachers learn as much as or more than those with traditional teachers.

Governor Gets Down to Business Quickly

While the Indiana General Assembly began its work on January 7, new Gov. Mike Pence had to wait a week for his January 14 inauguration. He quickly went to work, however, with significant positive actions on his first two days on the job.

A series of executive orders that Pence signed following his official ascension into office included a moratorium on new rules and regulations (with obvious emergency exceptions) that were not proposed before January 14, as well as a cost-benefit analysis of existing administrative rules. Priority will be given to review of those rules with the most negative effect on job creation and economic development.

Candidate Pence promised this action leading up to the election. While federal regulatory challenges are often at the forefront today, this step will help ensure that state government is not unnecessarily limiting job and economic growth.

On day two, the Pence team delivered a two-year, $29 billion spending plan to the State Budget Committee. The first six pages of this extensive document provide an overview of the key elements.

This is a very good starting point for legislators. It is a fiscally sound proposal, with a focus on meeting key state priorities and providing the 10% individual income tax relief (which also encompasses 90% of Hoosier businesses) that Pence proposed in his campaign. As we’ve indicated previously, lawmakers have questioned whether the income tax cut should take precedence over other budget desires. That will be worked out in the legislative process and could be determined by the updated revenue forecast that will be presented in early April.

A few highlights:

  • A 1% increase in each of the next two years for K-12 and higher education. The second year for K-12 would have that 1% be divided among the state’s highest performing schools. Combined, the education funding totals 65% of the budget.
  • While the administration did not include money to specifically expand the Medicaid program as outlined under federal health care reform, it does significantly increase funding for health insurance for the poor – from $1.65 billion this year to $2.1 billion in 2015.
  • The budget calls for a change in projected excess revenues. After 12.5% of annual spending is set aside in reserves, the remainder would be divided between the automatic income tax credits that were enacted during the Daniels administration and a new fund to help maintain roads, bridges and other infrastructure critical to economic growth.
  • Spending is kept in line in this proposal. A structural surplus is maintained and reserves are allocated effectively, with the infrastructure fund a good start to the larger question of financing future transportation needs. The Chamber will be working with the governor’s team and legislators to help ensure that as many pro-job, pro-economy priorities as possible are achieved in a responsible manner.

Worst of the Worst in 2012 Regulations

There’s room for one last "Bottom 10" list of 2012. With thousands of new government regulations each year, it’s difficult to select the worst new rules put into place. Two Heritage Foundation experts give it a try, starting with 1,099 pages of new mortgage disclosure rules that have the stated goal of simplifying home loans.

(10) Mortgaging the Future: New mortgage disclosure rules were released in July by the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with a stated goal of simplifying home loans. The rules run an astonishing 1,099 pages. The net result of this and similar rules? Fewer consumer mortgage lending options and increased costs.

(9) Tracking Your Travels: In December, the Department of Transportation proposed that electronic data recorders, popularly known as "black boxes," be required in most cars starting in 2014. The stated goal is to collect more information about car accidents. But this spooks privacy advocates, who warn that federal bureaucrats could misuse this information.

(8) Essential Choice Cutbacks: Under the Obamacare "essential benefits" rule, health insurers will be forced to cover health care services that the government deems essential, whether you want to buy them or not. The net result will be to increase health care costs, increasing the burden on consumers, employers and taxpayers.

(7) Instant Union: In April, the National Labor Relations Board issued new rules that shortened the time allowed for union-organizing elections to between 10 and 21 days. This leaves little time for employees to make a fully informed choice on unionizing, threatening to leave workers and management alike under unwanted union regimes.

(6) Don’t Let Them Eat Cake: The Department of Agriculture in January published detailed new nutrition standards for school lunch and breakfast programs. More than 98,000 elementary and secondary schools are affected – at a cost exceeding $3.4 billion over the next four years. The new rules sparked protests, and even a few hunger strikes, from students nationwide.

(5) Cleaned Out: Regulators admit that the new Energy Department rules governing dishwashers will do little to improve the environment. Rather, proponents claim they will save consumers money. But they will also increase the price of dishwashers, and only about one in six consumers will keep their dishwasher long enough to recoup the cost.

(4) Soda Socialism: On Sept. 13, at the behest of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York Board of Health banned the sale of soda and other sweetened drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. New Yorkers apparently are still allowed refills, at least for now. No word on how many NYC cops will be moved from crime prevention to monitor the city’s soda fountains.

(3) Sticker Shock: Adopted in August, these new automobile mileage rules require a whopping average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Sticker prices will jump by hundreds of dollars. Regulators argue that the fuel savings will make up these costs. Whether consumers want to make such a tradeoff doesn’t matter. The government has decided for them.

(2) Increasing Energy Costs: The Environmental Protection Agency in February finalized strict new emissions standards for coal- and oil-fired electric utilities. The benefits are highly questionable, with the vast majority being unrelated to the emissions targeted by the regulation. The costs, unfortunately, are certain: estimated to be $9.6 billion annually. The regulations are likely to undermine energy reliability and raise energy costs across the entire economy.

(1) Conscience Denial: The Department of Health and Human Services on Feb. 15 finalized its mandate that all health insurance plans include coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization procedures, and contraceptives. The mandate allows no exception for church-affiliated schools, hospitals and charities whose religious principles conflict with the mandate. To date, 42 lawsuits representing more than 110 plaintiffs have been filed challenging this restriction on religious liberty as a violation of First Amendment.

Paul vs. Paul: Popular Economic Minds Debate on Bloomberg TV

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Ok economic enthusiasts (I’m careful not to say "geeks" here), here is your Super Bowl. Famed libertarian Rep. Ron Paul against popular economist, author and left-leaner Paul Krugman on Bloomberg TV yesterday. In the comments section, let us know who you think wins this debate (and why) on the Federal Reserve and government’s role in the American economy.

Small Business Owners Send Clear Message in Poll

Small business owners are confident, but economic growth is not following due to too many regulations and concerns about energy prices. Those are among the results in the latest U.S. Chamber small business survey. More than eight in 10 respondents want Washington to "get out of the way."

Concerns about regulations and energy prices continue to impede growth for small businesses, according to a recent poll commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive between March 27 and April 2, 2012, found that while small business confidence grew in the first quarter of 2012, small businesses continue to lose employees. 30% of small businesses reported laying off employees in the last year.

“This survey confirms that slow gains in economic growth are being undermined by uncertainty over rising gas prices, an onslaught of pending regulations, and stalled pro-growth bills in Congress,”  said Dr. Martin Regalia, the Chamber’s chief economist. “To deliver long-term confidence to small businesses, Washington should act to provide certainty and enact regulatory reform that will boost their ability to grow.”

The poll of 1,339 small business executives found that eight out of ten of small business owners cite higher energy prices as an immediate threat to the success of their business. Concern about gas prices has more than doubled in the last three months, increasing from 10% to 24%. The majority of small businesses (78%) do not think the administration is doing enough to keep prices low, increase domestic sources of energy, or support American job creation. Additionally, three out of four (73%) say the new health care law is an obstacle to hiring new employees.

Overall small businesses see Washington as the problem instead of the solution, with 81% asking Washington to get out of the way and 92% believing the business community is the best entity to lead the economic recovery.

Almost all small business owners (97%) say it is important to vote for a candidate who is a strong supporter of free enterprise; 84% say it is very important. Only 9% of small business owners approve of the job the Democratic Senate Majority is doing on the economy; 87% disapprove. The House Republican majority’s approval rating on handling the economy has increased from 40% approval in January to 46% in April.

“Small business owners are increasingly demanding accountability from members of Congress on how they vote on the issues that impact their operations,” said the Chamber’s Senior Vice President and National Political Director Rob Engstrom. “We’re seeing small businesses unable to hire, or worse, forced to let employees go because of the Senate’s refusal to take up job-creating measures like domestic energy exploration and regulatory reform.”

The survey defined a small business as a company with fewer than 500 employees and annual revenues of less than $25 million.  To read a complete copy of the Q1 Small Business Outlook Survey, please visit: http://www.uschambersmallbusinessnation.com/community/small-business-outlook-survey—march-2012-

Keystone XL Pipeline Wins on Capitol Hill Not Enough

The Congressional scoreboard reads 5-2 in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline. But few believe the job-creating project to transport oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast is any closer to its needed U.S. approval.

The House passed (293-127) a federal transportation bill Wednesday that will now go to conference committee. A provision in that legislation would force the administration to approve the pipeline.

It is the fourth time the House has given its approval on the project, expected to create thousands of jobs during the construction phase and help increase energy security in the long term. The Senate has taken three votes, passing it once as part of the payroll tax deal late last year and defeating it twice.

Not to be forgotten is the importance of the transportation bill. The Senate passed a two-year, $109 billion program two weeks ago. It is expected to be the basis for the conference committee negotiations.

The White House has already threatened to veto the highway bill if the Keystone language remains. Both, however, are critical to funding ongoing infrastructure needs and putting people back to work.

In the upcoming BizVoice magazine (available May 3 in print and online), I’ll have a one-on-one interview with Canadian Consul General Roy Norton, who talks about the importance of this project, the critical Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, and other opportunities between the two North American neighbors.

Nepotism at the Township Level: Monroe County Edition

More evidence Indiana needs HB 1005 to pass to start cracking down on township government abuse. RTV6 has the story:

The State Board of Accounts is demanding a former Monroe County township trustee repay more than $95,000 after an audit revealed questionable expenditures involving family members.

Benton Township Trustee Heather Cohee stepped down last week amid criticism that she hired her husband and daughter to perform tens of thousands of dollars of work for the township without proper documentation.

The Attorney General’s Office told RTV6 on Monday that it will likely file a civil lawsuit against Cohee to recover the public funds, as well as a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order to freeze her financial assets.

According to the audit, Cohee hired her husband, Todd, also a Monroe County Sheriff’s deputy, to perform jobs such as cemetery mowing, parking lot paving, snow removal and landscaping.

Auditors said she also hired her daughter, Brittany, to do regular cleanings for the township, but the trustee had little documentation to support where the money actually went.

Todd Cohee served as the Township Clerk and Brittany Cohee served as the Township Assistance Clerk.

Auditors said Heather Cohee repeatedly did not file a conflict of interest statement for her husband or her daughter, which is a Class D felony.

Heather Cohee was unavailable Monday to discuss her resignation or the audit with RTV6.

Daniele Coe is handing the books for now, while the township board figures out the next steps.

"I don’t have a comment on what has gone on, but I know the board is doing everything it can to make sure business goes on as usual," Coe said.

Board member Lynn Stevens told RTV6 that the board would do everything possible to get the taxpayers’ money back, and said they scheduled an emergency meeting Monday night to discuss options.

Right-to-Work: Time to Move Forward

The legislative battle over right-to-work ended late this morning; if the noise of chanting protesters outside my office window is any indication, however, the issue will linger for some time. And that’s OK — if those disagreeing act in a responsible manner. That’s the way our free society is supposed to work.

How long will the lingering last? The obvious answer is at least November and the next election. One of the Senate Democrats speaking against the bill this morning said that this will awaken his party’s supporters. And that’s OK — that’s the way the system is supposed to work.

No one has proclaimed right-to-work will be the silver bullet that will immediately bring thousands of jobs to our state. (But one Indiana company indicated it is now staying and a Michigan business has invited previously ruled out Indiana to compete for its relocation). It is another important tool, accompanying the other contributors to our state’s strong business climate, one that will put Indiana in the running for many more jobs and economic opportunities. And our state’s batting average is pretty good when it has a chance to be in the game.

The evidence is there for those willing to listen — unions will not go away, safety will not slip, health care and pensions won’t be threatened. Will wages dramatically increase or decline? Probably not.

Right-to-work is here. It’s time to move on at the Statehouse to other important issues; it’s time throughout the state to let individuals have the choice of whether or not they wish to pay union dues as a condition of getting or keeping their job; it’s time for more companies to consider — and choose — our state for their relocations and expansions and the jobs they will bring.

Chamber media statement

Legislative Report summary

 

Speculation Time: GOP Primary Scenarios

After his narrow Iowa victory, Mitt Romney appears to be the most likely choice to garner the GOP presidential nomination. However, due to the fact that many conservatives simply don’t like him, that’s far from a certainty. CNN has an intriguing article outlining the different possibilities of how things will play out from this point on. Read the entire piece, but I have to run this portion for the die-hard Mitch Daniels enthusiasts out there:

(3) The long shot: Someone else enters the campaign (10% chance or less). Normally, this late in the game, a new entrant to the contest would be the stuff of science fiction. But conservative voters seem to be singularly dismayed by the choices in front of them: as CNN’s Erick Erickson tweeted last night, "Typical of email I’m getting: ‘If you put a gun to my head and said Romney or Santorum I would say pull the trigger.’"

Who would step into the fray? One hears voters pining for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (unlikely to join, especially after endorsing Romney) and some have floated Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (who endorsed Perry). Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would be a strong candidate, but that may be a tough sell to Bushed-out voters only four years after the conclusion of his brother’s presidency.

Would a candidate who jumped in this late even have a path to victory? Perhaps. The early primaries and caucuses are richer in symbolic significance than they are in delegates, especially with the new rules prohibiting winner-take-all allotment of delegates in the early states. And even with such a late jump on fundraising and organization-building, a candidate who was able to rack up a string of impressive victories in the middle- and later-term primaries could theoretically build up a big enough head of steam to take the convention by storm while making use of the Internet and earned (read: free) media coverage to play catch-up on money and organization.

The late-entrant scenario is still a dark horse at best, but even the fact that it’s within the realm of possibility underscores the reason Democrats are quietly cheering last night’s outcome: the GOP is still, at best, a party that’s looking for a standard-bearer — or, more dangerously for their 2012 prospects, a disunited collection of smaller groups of voters still pushing their own.

Heritage Looks at Indiana’s Push for Right-to-Work

More analysis on right-to-work and seperating fact from fiction from the Heritage Foundation’s blog, The Foundry:

Heritage’s James Sherk says the law is a common-sense solution for states wanting to create more job opportunities for workers.

Right-to-work laws reduce the financial benefit from organizing workplaces where unions have limited support. This makes unions less aggressive and encourages business investment, creating jobs. States can and should reduce unemployment by becoming right-to-work states.

Sherk’s analysis also found that right-to-work laws have little effect on wages, despite union claims to the contrary. Opponents of Indiana’s bill are making that argument a major issue in their campaign to defeat the effort.

While supporters in Indiana maintain their focus on the bill’s effect on job creation, there’s also a case to be made about the anti-American concept of forced unionization. Currently in Indiana, the government gives workers no choice. Their dues — 1 percent to 2 percent of wages — are given to union bosses, often to advocate for an agenda that workers might not support.

Passage of the bill in Indiana could boost efforts in other states. Last year New Hampshire lawmakers adopted a right-to-work bill, only to have it vetoed by the governor. The New York Times noted other campaigns in Maine, Michigan and Missouri.