Saturday, March 03, 2007

“More and more, retirees are finding that it pays to have worked for the government instead of the private sector”

The following piece appeared in USA Today on February 21..

“More and more, retirees are finding that it pays to have worked for the government instead of the private sector”
This article mentions the City of Dover

By Dennis Cauchon

Johnnie Nichols, a civilian Defense Department employee, contributes to a federal pension that will let him retire at age 56, after 32 years of service.

His wife, Kimberly, a math teacher at a private business college, has no pension after two decades of teaching and running a horse farm. Their marriage reflects the new world of retirement: government employees who have secure benefits and private workers who increasingly are on their own.

“If we were both in her shoes, we’d be in a world of hurt,” says Nichols, 45, an information technology manager in Middletown, Ind. “We wouldn’t be able to retire until age 67.”

As the first wave of 79 million baby boomers heads to retirement, the nation is dividing into two classes of workers: those who have government benefits and those who don’t. The gap is accelerating in every way: pensions, medical benefits, retirement ages.

Retired government workers are twice as likely to get a pension as their counterparts in the private sector, and the typical benefit is far more generous. The nation’s 6 million retired civil servants — teachers, police, administrators, laborers — received a median benefit of $17,640 in 2005, according to the Congressional Research Service. Eleven million private-sector retirees covered by traditional pensions got $7,692.

Governments’ generosity could have serious consequences for taxpayers and pensioners. Some states — including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and West Virginia — have troubled retirement systems that may require huge tax increases, spending cuts or even defaulting on promised benefits. The U.S. government has a bigger unfunded liability for military and civil servant retirement benefits ($4.7 trillion) than it does for Social Security ($4.6 trillion).

The pension gap will continue to widen because governments pump far more money into employee pensions than companies do. Civil servants earn an average of $12.38 an hour in benefits, about $5 an hour more than private-sector workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The difference was just $2.70 an hour in 1995.

Pension promises have “gotten out of hand,” says Peter Hanson, 73, chairman of NAI James E. Hanson Inc., a real estate firm in Hackensack, N.J. His firm offers a healthy private pension — up to 25% of compensation, given to employee retirement accounts — but it is tied to profits and given as a lump sum, not a lifetime promise of benefits.

Supporters of government pensions say the decline in private pensions is the problem, not the generosity of public retirement plans. “Rather than lower the bar for public employees, we need to stabilize retirement programs for everyone,” says Richard Ferlauto, director of pension and benefit policy for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union with 1.4 million members.

He acknowledges public pensions are getting more scrutiny. “People want to know, ‘Why should you have more security than us?’ ” he says. “It’s pension envy.”

State and local governments have sweetened retirement benefits during the past decade at a time when corporations have soured on them because of their cost. Only 18% of private workers now have traditional defined benefit pension plans, compared with more than 80% of government employees.

Contrary to a widely held notion, the extra government benefits aren’t compensation for lower pay. Most government workers are paid more than private employees in similar jobs, and the wage gap is growing.

A typical full-time state or local government worker made $78,853 in wages and benefits in the third quarter of 2006, $25,771 more than a typical private-sector worker, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. The difference was $7,604 in 2000. The compensation advantage holds true for all types of public workers, from teachers to laborers and managers. Better benefits for government workers is the biggest reason for the growing compensation gap.

“The government is in direct competition with us for employees. It’s hard to compete against these benefit packages,” says James Bellis, owner of Tree Tech, a 120-worker tree trimming company in Randolph, N.J. His company has a 401(k) plan that matches up to 2% of employee pay.

By comparison, tree trimmers working for a government in New Jersey would get a pension benefit worth more than three times that.

Superior retirement benefits for civil servants can be traced to the establishment of Social Security, which originally did not cover government employees, says E.J. McMahon, a pension expert at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank that deals with economic policy. Today, three-fourths of government workers participate in Social Security, but their overall benefits have not been reduced accordingly, he says.

The boost in benefits since the 1960s reflects the rising power of public employee unions, which have thrived as industrial labor unions and the benefits they won have eroded, he says.

The growing benefit gap makes government an increasingly attractive employer.

Anneliese Crosby, 46, who codes medical records at a private hospital in Manchester, N.H., is trying to get a government job for financial reasons — better pay, benefits and job security. The hospital recently ended its pension plan for new employees. That didn’t affect Crosby, but her retirement depends mostly on contributions to her tax-deferred retirement account.

“It’s scary. I feel like I need a second job or to be on the lookout for a new job,” she says. “I should put more in my retirement account, but I can’t afford it.”

Her solution: Apply for a similar job at a Veterans Affairs hospital. She’d get a pay raise, better benefits and a secure future. “My ex-husband keeps encouraging me to get a government job, and he’s right about that,” she says.

Pensions for civil servants often are superior to private pensions in subtle ways that make a huge financial difference. For example, government pensions:

•Generally base benefits on a worker’s top three earning years. Private pensions typically base benefits on the top five years of pay, which lowers the average.

•Often let retirees add the value of overtime, unused leave and other benefits into the pension formula. The results can be extreme. Dover, N.H., Police Chief William Fenniman, 46, added more than $200,000 for severance, sick leave and other payouts into his three-year salary average when he retired in January. This will boost his retirement benefit to as much as $125,000 a year, more than he made as chief.

•Permit early retirement at age 50 or 55 with less of a benefit reduction than private pensions.

•Provide free or subsidized medical care for retirees under age 65 and supplemental coverage after that for those on Medicare.

•More often provide automatic cost-of-living increases to benefits.

Baby boomer retirements will force governments to confront the rising costs of civil servant benefits. The U.S. government’s unfunded retirement obligation grew $200 billion last year to $4.7 trillion. That’s the amount the government would need today, set aside and earning investment returns, to pay for promised retirement benefits.

Before 1984, federal workers had a defined benefit plan and no Social Security. Today, new employees have Social Security and a pension that is part defined benefit plan (lifetime monthly payments) and part defined contribution (a lump sum at retirement).

The pension is more generous than most private pensions, but workers have to pay more to take advantage of the plan. “You have to be aggressive about making contributions if you want a good retirement,” says Nichols, the Defense Department employee.

Unlike private pensions, though, the federal system still encourages early retirement. “The sweet spot for me is about age 56. When I run the numbers, the system almost forces me to retire” early, Nichols says. For example, he expects to qualify for a free supplemental annuity at age 56 that provides a benefit equal to what he’d get at age 62 under Social Security.

Another big incentive to retire early: Most governments offer health insurance to early retirees until they qualify for Medicare at 65. Massachusetts spent $377 million on retiree medical benefits last year. The state’s unfunded liability for such costs is $13.3 billion, nearly as much as its actual debt of $18.5 billion, which is counted separately.

“It’s a burden on taxpayers, of course,” says Delores Mitchell, executive director of the Massachusetts Group Insurance Commission, which runs the program. But she doesn’t foresee major benefit cuts. “States have a tradition of treating retirees well.”

Medical insurance may be the most vulnerable benefit because it has fewer legal protections than pensions, which often are guaranteed in state constitutions. Orange County, Calif., recently slashed promised retiree medical benefits, cutting its liability from $1.4 billion to $600 million. The county hasn’t done anything about its pension problem.

“Pension benefits are like a lobster trap. You can get in, but you can’t get out,” says John Moorlach, an Orange County supervisor who has tried to reduce retirement benefits for government workers.

He blames elected officials for awarding unsustainable retirement benefits to win support from employee unions. “Elected officials love to give generous retirement benefits because they don’t cost anything today and they’ll be out of office when the payments come due,” Moorlach says. “And the public? Eyes droop with boredom when you bring up the topic.”

The financial soundness of civil servant pensions varies across the country. Government pensions are, on average, in a similar condition as private pensions — about 20% below the assets needed to be properly funded. But some states, especially in the industrial Midwest, have severely troubled pensions.

“The taxes needed to pay for these promises would push many of these states’ economies into a death spiral,” Chicago bankruptcy lawyer James Spiotto says.

He says public employee unions should not overestimate legal protections for pension benefits. Localities can shed their obligations in a bankruptcy filing, and states, as sovereign governments, can ignore the requirements, he says. “Unions can win all the litigation and still lose because the judgments can’t be enforced,” Spiotto says.

Tim Lee, executive director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association, says unions understand the cost of the retirement benefits. He says his association’s top goal is improving the financial health of the pension fund, not winning new benefits.

As expensive as government pensions are to taxpayers, civil servants don’t feel the benefits make them rich. Frank Caron, 49, maintains lab equipment at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He makes about $40,000 a year.

He has contributed heavily to his pension, including an extra $74 a week to restore pension credit for earlier government jobs. That will let him retire:

•At 55 with 47% of pay;

•At 60 with 72% of pay;

•Or at 65 with 103% of pay.

He also will have medical benefits and be eligible for Social Security at 62. “I’ve worked hard to have my ducks lined up in a row for retirement,” he says.

Friday, March 02, 2007

New tax targets firms

The piece below states that the tax plan puts a burden on businesses. The fact is it puts a burden on everyone except for those that will benefit from the income redistribution and that would be the education industry and those involved with socialized medicine. When you tax businesses it risks jobs and the increased tax burden is shifted on the buyers of the businesses products. This is a lose, lose, win situation. The only ones who are winning are those that benefit from income redistribution or the tax increases.

The following piece appeared in the Daily Herald.

New tax targets firms
Plan puts more tax burden on businesses

By John Patterson
Daily Herald State Government Editor
Posted Friday, March 02, 2007

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected to roll out a dramatic change next week in how businesses pay taxes in Illinois, a move that could raise billions for health care and education spending but which already has business interests howling.

Specifics are unlikely before the governor’s March 7 budget speech, but the general idea involves doing away with the corporate income tax and instead imposing a tax on virtually every transaction businesses make.

The concept is to put a relatively low tax rate on all the money that comes in the door rather than a higher tax only on company profits.

Illinois isn’t alone in considering this. Ohio and Texas enacted similar tax policies in recent years.

The bottom line result in Illinois could be upward of $7 billion in new tax revenue flowing into state coffers, money Blagojevich sorely needs to shore up previous populist programs, such as his children’s insurance plan, and launch new ones, all while keeping his campaign mantra of not raising the state’s sales or income taxes.

Supporters of the idea describe it as restoring fairness to the state’s tax structure, saying more than half the Illinois corporations do not pay the state’s corporate income tax.

Doug Kane, a former Illinois lawmaker and president of a Wisconsin-based economic consulting firm, said the state’s existing tax structure no longer represents its economy and, as a result, a greater burden increasingly falls on individuals. Switching to this new tax structure would reverse that trend and at the same time ensure every business pays, if for no other reason than the loophole-filled corporate income tax system would be abolished.

“The advantages of a gross receipts tax are: one, the simplicity; two, the very broad base which allows a very low rate,” said Kane, who’s been retained at $125 an hour by the Blagojevich administration to help make the case for such a tax change.

He notes Republicans and business groups have led the push for similar tax policies in Ohio and Texas.

But Illinois business groups aren’t convinced, with makers of everything from bottle caps to bulldozers fearing they’ll get soaked.

Hardest hit, critics say, are major manufacturers relying on myriad supply chains and companies with low profit margins whose daily business consists of numerous small transactions.

“Good year or bad year, you’re going to get hit on your sales and not on your profitability,” said John L. Mikesell, a government finance professor at Indiana University.

“Almost anybody who’s done graduate-level work in economics is going to be against that turkey. The only exception is politicians,” Mikesell said. “There’s literally nothing good that can be said about it.”

As for other states, Mikesell notes Ohio businesses backed this kind of tax as a replacement for a system they despised even more. Nor are all states rushing to impose these taxes. Indiana has done away with its gross receipts tax.

Back in Illinois, the pending proposal almost certainly will create an all-out lobbying war at the Capitol, as virtually every business entity is already lining up to fight the plan. On the other side are myriad education, health care and other interest groups who covet state funding for their programs and have no shortage of ideas for how to spend more tax dollars.

In between are lawmakers who, on one hand, don’t want to appear overly anti-business but on the other hand will have the Blagojevich administration tempting them with the opportunity to come up with billions for spending without having to go home and defend a tax hike to the general public.

Business groups, however, are already emphasizing that such a tax will result in higher prices and the fingers should point to Blagojevich.

“The governor’s going to impose the largest tax on the people of Illinois, period,” said Greg Baise, president and chief executive of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. “They’re going to pay for it.”

But supporters dispute the guarantee of higher prices and say such criticism ignores the bigger problem of how to fix the state’s overall tax structure.

“It’s way too easy to trash a tax individually,” Kane said. “No tax is good.”

The question Kane has for critics is, if not this tax, then which one?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A+ Illinois $500,000 from Gates to Ram HB 750 down your throats.

In a recent news release from A+ Illinois we learned that the Gates Foundation gave the "lobbying group" for the teachers' unions and public education monopoly, $500,000. Starting March 1st A+ Illinois will be using this money to encourage you and legislators to increase income taxes and business taxes for the "funding" problem in our public schools. It is not a funding problem it is a spending problem.

Pete Speer sent the following message to Mr. Gates.

Dear Mr. Gates:

I have just learned that the Gates Foundation has provided a $500,000 Grant to A+ its efforts to lobby legislators to increase Illinois school funding.

Regretfully, A+ Illinois does not have the same objectives as has been excellently presented in public speeches by Mr. Gates. Perhaps I have misread what I thought to be his clear train of logic.

The money from the tax increase which A+ Illinois is supporting is for two purposes. Part would go to increase funding for Illinois public schools without requiring reform. Part would go to increase taxes generally.

A small group of us in Illinois follow school funding closely. The State, according to the NEA, in combined state and local funding ranks 11th in the nation. However, it is the quality of the education output which concerns us.

In our view, the box that is Public Education is broken. What is clearly lacking is Education Value -- that which can be provided only by teachers with Subject Matter Mastery, a love of the subject and an affection for their students. The teachers in Illinois by this standard are underqualified. They are rewarded on a grid system of pay with longevity increases and additional increases for additional coursework. Of the graduate degrees held by Illinois High School teachers a large majority are not in the subject matter area they are teaching

Entry into the teaching force is tightly controlled by the Schools of Education who demand, we think unreasonably, multiple semesters of education theory and practice -- even of those who have had teaching experience in the military and wish to provide upon retirement continued public service. The environment is a closed shop, much like the industrial unions of the 1940s.

Union control over local Districts is absolute. It remains the largest source of contributions for a single political party. While Charter Schools are permitted in a limited fashion, only the political muscle of Chicago's Mayor has forced a single Charter School district through. The remainder of the state has not. The teachers unions and the administrators have advised Districts to opt out of the No Child Left Behind program, because of whatever small amount of rigor which it imposed. That would, of course, reveal the shortcomings to the public.

The "standards" agency -- the Illinois State Board of Education -- this last year has dumbed down the standardized tests, normed up the results and lowered the passing grade on subject matter competency for teacher certification. Once again, underqualified performance has been hidden behind inflated test scores...and grades.

Mr. Gates has spoken about the reform of the school system. The website deals with the math area and has a good short video by a professor in your state.

When the nadir of American car quality was reached in the 1960s, foreign competition entered the market and both amenities and qualities were increased across the board. We believe that this applies, not only to Illinois schools but across the nation. It is time for Competitive Competition in the Education field. The solution is simple, the cost would probably be less than the present cost of public education:

After accounting for special education needs vest the parents, on behalf of each child, with an equal amount of funding now going to Education Fund of each District. Funds would accrue from Federal, State and local resources. Let them choose from any accredited school -- in District or out. This would include the present District, a charter school, any accredited private school , and even a parochial school or a religious school, provided that the school's curriculum did not have religious courses during normal time.

This does two things. It empowers the family -- the building block of the Republic. It involves the parents in school selection and can remotivate them.

We are moving through a period during which early school leavers of the past, who had been ill served both at home and in the school, no longer believe that Education is an economic and a social good. Combined with a continuing program of GED equivalent education as a condition of welfare, Competitive Choice offers a way to form families to rejoin society.

In the case at hand, however, I am saddened to report that your grant will not reform schools, merely maintain the status quo.


Paul D. (Pete) Speer, Jr.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Will plan spell r-e-l-i-e-f?

HB - 750 will undoubtedly pass in the fall veto session. But this will not help McHenry County Schools. Once the income taxes leave the County they will not come back. Schools will continue to overspend and referenda will not cease. Please take the time to contact your legislators and tell them to vote no on any income tax increases, tax swaps or new taxes to businesses. There are two ways to balance a budget. One way is to increase revenues the other is to decrease spending. It is time to decrease spending in the schools. Taxpayers should not be the ones to always take a pay-cut.

The following piece appeared in the Northwest Herald.

Will plan spell r-e-l-i-e-f?

Comments (63)
Local school district leaders aren’t pinning their hopes on HB 750 – the latest education funding reform proposal reintroduced this month.

And they don’t think that it is the solution to Illinois’ school funding woes.

Officials aren’t even bothering to crunch the numbers to see how they will fare under the bill. Many of the county’s education veterans have seen so many proposals come and go over the years, they are wondering why this one will be any different.

“I’ve been in education 31 years,” said Ronald Miller, superintendent of Crystal Lake District 47.

“It comes up all the time, ... and then it stalls.”

House Bill 750 is designed to equalize the state’s funding system, which critics say is too reliant on local property-tax dollars.

The bill would increase the state income tax and tax consumer services, such as haircuts and lawn care, to provide a revenue stream to boost state aid to schools. It guarantees property tax relief, in the form of a refund from the state, to taxpayers.

The organization that wrote the legislation, the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, says no school district in Illinois would lose money under the proposal.

Local legislators are skeptical. Even if local school districts don’t lose money, the taxpayers of McHenry County likely will be helping foot the bill of making the system more equitable, they said.

“McHenry County would lose money,” said state Sen. Pamela Althoff, R-Crystal Lake. She and state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, say they oppose the legislation.

Local school district leaders say they aren’t sure how they would be affected.

Allan Smigiel, director of finance for McHenry District 15, said he didn’t know the specific impact on his district. He said similar proposals to HB 750 already had been proposed without any action.

But until the Legislature addresses the state’s structural deficit, he said, it shouldn’t be taking on the school’s education system.

Education leaders throughout the state agree that the quality of a child’s education shouldn’t depend on where the child lives. But part of the challenge is that each district and legislator wants to protect their local districts. In McHenry County, local dollars provide up to 90 percent of school funding. In other areas of the state, the percentages are far less.

Miller said there was a natural skepticism from McHenry County taxpayers about any reform that meant sending money to Springfield for the state to dole it out.

“No ifs, ands and buts,” Miller said. “Anytime money goes to Springfield, we worry about it.”

As much as property-tax dollars are a burden, taxpayers prefer to have that local control, said Mike Tanner, assistant superintendent of finance for Prairie Grove District 46.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Truth About Teacher Salaries

Jerry Moore of My Short
has a Lifetime Earnings Calculator where "you can directly compare your lifetime compensation to a teacher's . . . in a matter of minutes!"

On his site you will find some great information about teacher and administrator salaries. Although his site is directed toward New York schools the information is still useful since the NEA and AFT direct most union activities and employ the same tactics in school districts across the United States.

The following is from Jerry Moore's website.

"The setting of government school administrator and teacher salaries in New York is now a purely political exercise. Salaries are no longer strictly a product of skills and job difficulty, nor regulated by free market forces. Private sector New York teachers earn far less than public sector teachers. "

To read more go to My Short

Quote of the Day

"The setting of government school administrator and teacher salaries in New York is now a purely political exercise. Salaries are no longer strictly a product of skills and job difficulty, nor regulated by free market forces." Jerry Moore

Monday, February 26, 2007

Magna Charters

The following is a start toward school reform, unless we dismantle the current failures of our current public education system these same failures in particular the teachers' unions and administrator associations will invade and dismantle the good things that are now happening in our charter schools.

The following article appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

Magna Charters

February 26, 2007; Page A19
As he prepared to announce the Aspen Commission's recent recommendations for revamping the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), co-chair Tommy Thompson made a telling remark: "We have been much more successful at identifying struggling schools than we have been in actually turning them around." Regrettably, as with other mainstream groups that have weighed in on the NCLB, the commission's report focuses almost exclusively on fixing ailing schools rather than starting healthy new ones. Both tracks are needed.

The NCLB has laid bare the troubling gaps in student achievement among racial and socioeconomic groups, and it has spurred some improvement, particularly in the early grades. Yet its prescriptions for reform have provoked meager change in schools and systems that produce chronically weak results.

The law lets parents move kids to a higher performing public school -- but in many cities there simply aren't any better choices available. Using federal dollars for "supplemental services" can help -- but tutoring often takes place after students have spent the school day in learning-deprived classrooms.

The act's coup de grĂ¢ce, after years of failure, is to require "restructuring" a dysfunctional school from scratch, through state takeover, contracting-out, or re-opening as a public charter school. But its impact has been stifled by legislative language allowing "any other" step as well. Districts and states have opted to switch principals, give pep talks and hire "turnaround specialists" instead of coming to terms with intractable failure.

Indeed, according to a recent analysis by SRI International for the U.S. Department of Education, only one of 12 states with Title I schools identified for restructuring as of 2004 had reopened a school as a public charter; one turned over operations to the state; two states replaced school staff and eight took no action.

Ironically, the best illustration of the NCLB's mission may be outside this whole "turnaround" apparatus, in the open sector of public education called charter schooling, where parents, teachers and entrepreneurs are creating new schools that are publicly accountable but independent of bureaucratic rules. Reporter Paul Tough recently wrote about three charter-school networks (Achievement First, the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), and Uncommon Schools) for the New York Times magazine. Students attending these institutions made large learning gains despite years of educational neglect elsewhere.

Rather than cobbling together remediation strategies, these schools create an unyielding culture of high expectations, offer significantly longer learning time than traditional public schools, and organize everything (including personnel decisions) around evidence of student achievement. While these are superstars, dozens of independent studies show that public charter schools around the country are closing achievement gaps at a faster pace than their district counterparts.

Despite low participation rates for "official" NCLB-driven choice (less than 1% of those eligible to transfer, according to federal figures), more than a million families, disproportionately poor and minority, have sought out public charter schools on their own. Charters now educate 26% of all public school kids in Washington, D.C.; 28% in Dayton; and 18% in Detroit (and climbing since that city's recent teacher strike). According to our research, charters now account for more than 13% of public school enrollment in 19 jurisdictions.

By all means, the next No Child Left Behind Act should continue pushing to improve existing schools. But the reauthorized NCLB should also be an engine for creating new, high-quality schools in communities where they're most needed. Here's how:

Quality first. The federal Charter Schools Program, authorized in Title V of the NCLB, provides critically important seed funding for startups. It has been an important source of support, especially for small, community-based charters. Created with bipartisan support when only seven states had charter laws (there are 40 today), the program is due for an overhaul, placing more emphasis on funding the strongest startups and replicating top-quality charters.

Grants should be targeted toward places with high numbers of schools "in need of improvement." And states should be expected to promote and monitor quality like the best venture capitalists -- or lose the right to administer the grant program altogether.

The charter program has been flat-lined for four appropriations cycles; it's time to align funding levels with need. Related programs that support charter facilities should be reauthorized and put on a sound financial footing as well, since charter schools do not qualify for state capital programs and only 11 states offer any kind of compensation for facilities needs.

Bust caps. More money will be pointless unless artificial limits on charter growth are lifted in the 26 states that now have them. In some cases these "caps" directly pre-empt the intent of the NCLB. It's actually illegal to create a new charter school in New York State right now -- meaning that a mother desperate to pull her child out of a failing school in the South Bronx may simply have to wait until Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has a change of heart about the state's limit of 100 public charter schools.

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings recently proposed reauthorization language permitting local officials to reopen a failing school as a charter even if it would exceed a state charter cap. The secretary's idea is on-target, but Congress should go her one better, permitting cap-free chartering wherever students lack suitable public schools. And the local school board should not be the only game in town. In states where universities and state boards can approve charter schools, they too should be able to override restrictive caps.

Add teeth. Persistently failing schools need fundamental change, not cosmetic touch-ups. Re-opening as a charter, with a proven academic model, new team and clear accountability for performance, can provide a fresh start. But to work, such "re-opened" charters must have independent governance with full autonomy over budgets, personnel and working conditions. That independence must be spelled out in the federal law, or else we risk creating a raft of so-called "charters" still tethered to the same central offices that let students down in the first place.

In its first five years, the NCLB has affirmed a national commitment to educational opportunity for all. In the next five years, it should do more to galvanize real change by ratcheting up its support of public charter schools. A vibrant new-schools sector is the best way to challenge the status quo and offer real promise of achievement for every American public-school student.

Mr. Smith is president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Quote of the Day.

Persistently failing schools need fundamental change, not cosmetic touch-ups. Nelson Smith