Enlow: Other States Trying to Emulate Indiana on Vouchers, Charter School Law

The following guest blog is part of our weeklong celebration of National School Choice Week:

Around this time last year, the national spotlight was on Indiana because of a battle in the state capital. No, not right-to-work – the Super Bowl. But in the absence of that spectacle, the nation continues to keep a watchful eye on Indiana for the transformative changes made to its education system – particularly in the area of school choice.

Our state continually ranks at the top in the educational opportunities it provides Hoosiers. With vouchers, Indiana has the largest eligibility window of the other 11 voucher-providing states: 530,000 low- and middle-income students statewide, 9,324 of whom opted for vouchers in the program’s second year. The state has the sixth-best charter school law in the nation, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. And in the Center for Education Reform’s “Parent Power Index,” which compiles a number of education reform measures that empower families, Indiana ranks number one.

Hoosiers should know that other states have tried for years to adopt pieces of the package Indiana approved. And make no mistake, other states need to pass those measures because our country has been woefully lagging, and overspending, in attempting to prepare our young people for college, careers and life.

In 1966, the federal government provided $2 billion for public education (using 2006 dollars). In 2005, that number increased to $25 billion. In 2010, total federal spending on K-12 education reached $47 billion. Meanwhile, data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show a history of education outcomes not keeping pace with those increased expenditures. In 1971, the average score for eighth graders on NAEP’s reading exam was 255 (on a 500-point scale). In 2011, that number stood at 265. For fourth graders over that same time period, the average score bumped from 208 to 221.

School choice, on the other hand, has proved its positive effect on increasing student outcomes at around half the cost. Of the 10 random-assignment studies – considered research’s “gold standard” – conducted on school vouchers, nine showed they positively impact student performance; one found no effect. And among the empirical studies examining school choice’s effect on other schools, all but one found competition improves traditional public schools; again, one found no effect. None concluded there is a negative impact.

That’s why states – this year’s list includes Alaska, Maine, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas – are trying to emulate Indiana. And they must. Such policies may not be as fun as the Super Bowl, but their effects are certainly game-changers for taxpayers, schools, parents, and those who matter most: students.


Robert Enlow is president and CEO of the Indianapolis-based Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, which is participating in National School Choice Week, January 27-February 2. More than 100 Indiana schools are holding events during the weeklong celebration for school choice.

Governors Faced with Difficult Medicaid Decision

The Medicaid expansion decision for each state is one of several critical aspects of the Affordable Care Act, which was recently deemed Constitutional by the Supreme Court. Although federal dollars are at stake, it’s not a given that states (including Indiana) will agree to the changes to the program for low-income residents. Stateline offers a strong summary.

Although the lineup is shifting, more than a dozen Republican governors have suggested they might decline to participate in the Medicaid expansion. Governors in Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Texas, South Carolina and Wisconsin have said they will not participate. GOP governors in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Virginia indicate they are leaning in that direction.

Meanwhile, about a dozen Democratic governors have said their states will opt in. The rest have not declared their intentions.

According to data from the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government would spend $923 billion on a full Medicaid expansion between 2014 and 2022, and states would spend about $73 billion. But nobody is sure how many people will enroll in the Medicaid expansion. According to a 2010 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, states’ share of the Medicaid expansion could range anywhere from $20 billion to $43 billion in the first five years.

According to Kaiser, most states opting into the expansion likely would have to ramp up their Medicaid spending between 2014 and 2019, but four would spend less (Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont) and several others would have to boost state spending only slightly.

Mississippi’s Medicaid program, for example, cost a total of $4 billion in 2011—the federal government paid $3 billion, and the state paid $1 billion. Expanding that program to everybody at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line would cost the state as much as $581 million between 2014 and 2019, according to Kaiser’s 2010 study.  That’s a 6.4 percent increase in state spending compared to what Mississippi would spend without an expansion

The day after the Supreme Court ruled the Medicaid expansion was optional, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, a Republican, said: “Although I am continuing to review the ruling by the Supreme Court, I would resist any expansion of Medicaid that could result in significant tax increases or dramatic cuts to education, public safety and job creation.”

Double the Taxing ‘Pleasure’ on April 17

There’s something ironic (not pleasant, but ironic) about Tax Freedom Day this year occuring on April 17 — the same day taxes are due. The day, according to the Tax Foundation, is when people finally work long enough to pay their taxes for the year.

The latest Tax Freedom Day took place on May 1, 2000. With the economy booming that year, Americans paid 33% of their total income in taxes. A century earlier was more pleasant with "freedom" arriving on January 22, 1900.

State tax burdens vary the tax timeframe. Indiana residents will "celebrate" on April 14, which ranks 26th nationally. As for the best of 2012:

  • Tennessee, March 31
  • Louisiana and Mississippi, April 1 (no foolin’)
  • South Carolina, April 3
  • South Dakota, April 4

And the worst:

  • Connecticut, May 5
  • New Jersey and New York, May 1
  • Washington, April 24
  • Wyoming and Illinois, April 23

Tuesday Vote; 2012 Consequences

Elections, no matter the year, do make a difference. Sure, some are more important than others. Michael Davis, who led the Indiana Chamber’s political affairs efforts before joining BIPAC in Washington, offers his analysis of what next week’s national votes mean for the states involved and for 2012. Here are some excerpts:

With three states holding gubernatorial contests, four states holding state legislative elections plus numerous special election and ballot initiatives, the 2011 elections may give us an early preview of how upset voters will be throughout next year.

The results for next week’s elections, particularly the fights for control of the Virginia State Senate and the Mississippi House of Representatives, may give us an early indicator of what issues will be top of mind for voters (economy, jobs), which voter base is more motivated (look for turnout numbers of those identified as younger voters, Tea Party supporters, 2008 Obama supporters and independent voters) and if voters will continue to be more than willing to retire incumbent candidates seeking re-election (should be higher than historical averages, but will they be higher than that of the last couple of cycles?).

One of the big stories of the night could be the locking up of the South by Republicans.  If the GOP can gain control of the Virginia Senate and Mississippi House, Republicans will control the State House, State Senate and Governor’s office of every Southern state except Arkansas.

Here is a list of top races to watch on Tuesday, November 8:

Control of the Virginia Senate.  Democrats currently control the State Senate by a 22-18 margin, but Republicans in Richmond are optimistic they will win back control.This would give Republicans control of the Senate, House and Governor’s office at the same for only the second time in state history. Following the election, control over the state’s congressional redistricting process looms large.

Control of the Mississippi House. Democrats currently control the House by a 68-54 margin with Republicans strongly knocking on the door to win control. Like in Virginia, this would give Republicans control of the Senate, House and Governor’s office. The Republican playing field is large enough and there are clearly enough districts with favorable numbers to put Republicans in control.

Ballot measures. Issue 2 in Ohio, an effort to repeal a 2011 act that places limits on collective bargaining for public employees, will likely attract the most national attention.

Iowa State Senate District 18 special election. With Democrats holding a 25 to 24 majority, this special election will result in either Democrats holding a 26 to 24 majority or the State Senate being evenly split 25 to 25 heading into the 2012 legislative session. Anyone who has been through an evenly a legislative session with an evenly split legislative body can give you an excellent definition of "chaos" or "gridlock."   

Insurance by the Numbers

When the subject these days is health care, that dreaded six-letter "r" word that ends in "form" usually follows. Let’s skip that topic and its consequences. Instead, a few interesting insurance facts, courtesy of The Council of State Governments and its annual The Book of the States.

  • Top five states for percentage of residents covered by insurance: Massachusetts (97%), Hawaii (92.5%), Wisconsin (91.8%), Minnesota (91.7%) and Maine (91.2%)
  • Bottom five states for percentage of residents covered by insurance: Texas (74.8%), New Mexico (77.5%), Florida (79.8%), Mississippi (81.2%) and Louisiana (81.5%)
  • On a regional basis, percent insured are 88.6% in the Midwest, 88.5% in the East, 83.9% in the South and 82.8% in the West
  • Where people get their insurance: 53.7%, employer; 13.2%, Medicaid; 12.1%, Medicare; 4.9%, individual
  • People under age 65: 65% have private insurance and 17% are uninsured
  • Children under age 18: 58% have private insurance, 34% are on a public health plan and 8.9% are uninsured

What do all the numbers mean? Let us know your interpretation.

Inside the Uninsured Numbers

What do we know about the health care uninsureds in our country? That there are somewhere around 46 million people in this category, the national total is slightly over 16% and Indiana’s percentage is nearly the same.

Gallup, the polling people, have some more numbers. Their recent surveys tell us there are more uninsured in Texas, New Mexico and Mississippi (between 24% and 27% in each state) and the lowest totals are in Massachusetts (5.5% with its "universal" coverage), and Vermont, Minnesota and Hawaii (all in the 8.5% range). The Gallup results also show regional trends — lower numbers of uninsured in the Northeast and higher figures in the South and West. They link varying amounts of Hispanic populations as one of the reasons for the difference.

But there are more numbers that should not be forgotten: 45% of the uninsured are in that status for less than four months and only 16% are uninsured for more than 18 months. According to the Heritage Foundation, 20 million are in households with incomes more than twice the poverty level, approximately nine million are on Medicaid and nearly as many are illegal immigrants. The problem, experts say, is the lack of portability in insurance (those who change jobs often go in and out of the uninsured count). Policy changes regarding tax treatment and portability would be a huge first step in the right direction.

The point: Yes, the many Americans without insurance is a problem and part of the health care reform debate, but take a closer look at the numbers before forming your opinion on what needs to take place.