Thursday, May 24, 2012

Honor Veterans by Giving Their Children Better Education Options

Americans want to honor the veterans and service members who sacrifice so much to defend our country. That’s why we have holidays like Memorial Day. Yet members of our military deserve more than speeches and parades. They deserve policies that reduce the price that they and their families have to pay for their service.

In 1944, Congress passed what is today known as the Montgomery G.I. Bill. By putting a college education within the financial reach of veterans, the G.I. Bill is credited with growing the American middle class and ushering in one of the longest economic expansions in history. Recent changes to the G.I. Bill allow veterans to transfer their education benefits to their college-age children. Unfortunately, they can’t pass them on to their elementary and secondary school children, many of whom sorely need better options.

Congress and state lawmakers should move to change this limitation so that veterans can use existing GI Bill benefits for Military Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) to send their children to schools they think are best—regardless of where they are stationed.

More than one million school-age children in America, who mostly attend public schools, have parents serving in the military. Yet over half the country’s public schools with at least a 5 percent military-child enrollment are not meeting state academic standards. Children from military families change schools far more frequently and have higher disability rates than their civilian peers, further undermining their chances of success in school.

Military ESAs would help expand education options without adding costs to national and state budgets because they would simply let veterans direct their existing or unused education benefits into tax-free savings accounts for their school-age children. Ample models already exist for how this could work.

Coverdell ESAs, for example, allow individuals to contribute up to $2,000 annually for schoolchildren’s education, including private school tuition, room and board, tutoring, special education services, uniforms, and educational technology. As with existing Coverdell ESAs, qualified education expenditures from Military ESAs would be tax free. Annual contributions could match the current per-pupil funding at the public school the service member’s child would otherwise have to attend. Military ESA funds could pay for transportation, tuition, associated virtual or home school costs, as well as tutoring, books, supplies, and fees for special educational services. Any remaining funds could be used toward children’s postsecondary education or training.

This isn’t just important to those children who have better education options. It’s important to our nation’s defense. Top military officials report that military parents with school-age children are reluctant to accept assignments to areas with poorly performing schools. Ensuring that military personnel will have high-quality education options will help with military recruitment and retention efforts.

Since 2008, Congress has considered but failed to enact several scholarship programs for military dependents. This is a topic they should reconsider immediately. Unlike other proposals, Military ESAs would be more fiscally—and therefore politically—viable, because they require no additional appropriations. But state lawmakers don’t need to wait for Congress to act.

Virtually every state offers higher education benefits to National Guard members. In some states, those benefits can even be transferred to surviving dependents. States also have their own 529 college savings plans, and qualified withdrawals are not subject to federal taxes. Additionally, some states offer income tax deductions or tax credits for 529 contributions. State lawmakers should simply amend their existing programs so they can serve as Military ESAs for K-12 education expenditures as well. Arizona did so last year, when it became the first state to enact a K-12 ESA program.

Such benefits would be powerful recruitment tools and help nurture home-grown talent, which contributes to states’ economic growth without burdening their budgets. In fact, because most annual private, charter, virtual, and home schooling costs are significantly less than the $12,000 national public-school per-pupil average, states would likely realize significant savings. In fact, if just 1 percent of military children attended private schools instead of public district schools using Military ESAs, states would realize a combined annual savings of more than $92 million.

Most important, by allowing federal and state Military ESAs, policymakers can ensure that the Americans who have sacrificed so much for their country do not have to sacrifice when it comes to providing a quality education for their children.
Tags: Education and Schools , Veterans , Military Families , children , Education , GI Bill


End state support of colleges and universities

In an era in which many statists are doing their best to assure themselves and others that they are not socialists, this might be a good time to visit one of the most deeply entrenched and popular socialistic programs in our time — state-supported colleges and universities.

State-supported colleges and universities receive their revenues in two ways: voluntarily (e.g., through tuitions and donations) and coercively (i.e., through taxation). From a moral perspective, the difference between these two forms of funding is the difference between day and night.

Let’s assume that a college receives no state funding and that it relies entirely on voluntary support. Through tuitions and donations, it is able to raise $10 million per year. Each year it spends the full amount of the money it receives.

One day, the school president decides that he would like to expand operations by $3 million a year. During its annual fundraising drive, the school does its best to raise $3 million in additional donations.

However, while the school is able to raise its usual $10 million, it is unable to convince people to donate the extra $3 million. The school will have to shelve its expansion plans.

But then the college president gets an idea. He exclaims to the college board of trustees: “The donors are wrong. They should easily see how important our expansion plans are. They should have said yes when we asked them to donate the extra $3 million to us. Why don’t we go to the state legislature and ask it to use the coercive power of the state to levy a tax on our donors that raises the $3 million we need, and then give the money to us?”

A libertarian on the board objects: “Wait a minute. Where is the morality in that? When we approached these people and asked them to donate the extra money to us, they refused, which is their right. After all, it’s their money. How can we morally justify forcibly taking the $3 million from them? If we did it privately, we’d be stealing. How is it different in principle if we use the state to accomplish the same end?”

The college president responds, “The difference is that we live in a democracy, a political system in which the majority rules. If the majority of the people, as reflected by their elected representatives, vote to take those people’s money from them and give it to us, that’s what democracy is all about. If those people don’t like it, they can elect other representatives to public office.”

The libertarian responds: “But fundamental rights are not subject to majority vote. We wouldn’t countenance forcing people to go to church even if the majority supported such a law. Why should we countenance what amounts to the stealing of other people’s money simply because the majority has approved it?”

State-supported colleges and universities say that they couldn’t survive without state funding. That might or might not be true. But is that any moral justification for forcibly taking people’s money from them to fund school operations? If a business can’t survive in a free and voluntary marketplace, then why shouldn’t it go under? When people decline to support it, that’s because they choose to spend, donate, or invest their funds elsewhere. Why should they be forced to fund an operation that they have chosen not to support?

In an era in which government spending and debt at all levels continues to soar, one of the best ways to reduce spending and borrowing would be to eliminate all government funding of colleges and universities. It would not only be the fiscally responsible thing to do. It would also be the moral thing to do.


British Pupils' exam results 'closely linked' to parents' education

British State schools are in general  now so bad that you have to be bright to get your kid into a good school

Parental education has a far larger bearing on children’s exam results in England than in other developed nations, according to research.  Pupils with bright mothers and fathers are more likely to exceed national averages in this country than those educated in nations such as Canada and Australia, it was revealed.

Just days before teenagers prepare to take their GCSEs, the study underlined the extent to which social mobility has now ground to a halt.

Academics from the Institute for Social and Economic Research, based at Essex University, found that parents’ success at a young age meant they could afford to live in areas with easy access to the best schools – giving their own children the best start in life.

In a controversial move, researchers suggested that more state secondary schools should adopt lottery-style admissions systems – when all applicants’ names are effectively placed in a hat and picked at random – to break the middle-class stranglehold on places.

It comes just days after Elizabeth Sidwell, the Schools Commissioner, endorsed the move, saying it was undesirable for schools to draw pupils from small affluent catchment areas.

Prof John Ermisch, one of the report’s authors, said: “The educational system is likely to be the most widely used and most acceptable policy tool we have for equalising life chances. Our analysis of England suggests that more equal access to good secondary schools – eg. through lottery allocation – could make a contribution.

“But as long as there is such a wide variation in school quality, such a policy would be resisted by better-off parents, because some would be forced to send their children to inferior schools.”

The study analysed exam results – and the outcomes of interviews – for around 16,000 schoolchildren born in 1989 and 1990. It checked pupils' progress at 11, 14 and 16. The study found a “steep gradient” in the achievement of children with well-educated parents during adolescence.

This rise “becomes steeper between the end of primary school and part-way through secondary school”, it was revealed.  “It appears to be related to the sorting of children into secondary schools, with more educated parents sending their children to better quality schools,” said the study.

Researchers analysed similar data in the US and found that the “parental education gradient when the child is aged around 14 was similar if not steeper than in England”.

But in Canada and Australia children’s achievements in test scores at 15 were “less strongly related to parents’ highest education”, suggesting these countries were much more socially mobile.

The conclusions come just days after Nick Clegg warned that snobbery is being turned into a national “religion” in Britain as millions of children from poor homes are denied good jobs because of class attitudes.  The Deputy Prime Minister said a privileged few had a “sense of entitlement”.


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