Saturday, March 17, 2007

How Taxes Work

The following piece is self explanitory and came from the Maine Public Policy Institute.

How Taxes Work
by T. Davies

This is a VERY simple way to understand the tax laws. Read on - it does make you think!! Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand. Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner.

The bill for al ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this: The first four men -- the poorest -- would pay nothing; the fifth would pay $1, the sixth would pay $3, the seventh $7, the eighth $12, the ninth $18, and the tenth man -- the richest -- would pay $59. That's what they decided to do. The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement -- until one day, the owner threw them a curve (in tax language, a tax cut). "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20." So now dinner for the ten only cost $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six -- the paying customers?

How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share? The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would end up being PAID to eat their meal. So the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so the fifth man paid nothing, the sixth pitched in $2, the seventh paid $5, the eighth paid $9, the ninth paid $12, leaving the tenth man with a bill of $52 instead of his earlier $59. Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. "I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man, but he (pointing to the tenth man), got $7!" "Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man, "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got seven times more than me!" "That's true," shouted the seventh man.

"Why should he get $7 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!" "Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!" The nine men surrounded the tenth man and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn't show up for dinner. So the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, the nine men discovered -- a little late -- what was very important. They were FIFTY-TWO DOLLARS short of paying the bill! Imagine that! And that, boys and girls, journalists and college instructors, is how the tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction.

Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore. Where would that leave the rest? Unfortunately, most taxing authorities anywhere cannot seem to grasp this rather straight-forward logic!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Improving public schools

The following piece appeared in the Washington Times. No further commentary is needed.

Improving public schools
By David White
March 12, 2007

Steve Jobs, the co-founder and CEO of Apple, just lost any friends he had in the executive offices of the nation's teacher unions. Speaking recently at an education reform conference in Austin, Mr. Jobs blamed the unionization of America's public schools for much of what's wrong with today's public education system.
"What kind of person could you get to run a small business," he asked, comparing school principals to CEOs, "if you told them that when they came in they couldn't get rid of people that they thought weren't any good?" Unfortunately for America's schoolchildren, Mr. Jobs' criticisms are just scraping the surface.
Across America, there are more than 3 million public-school teachers. Organized through the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers -- the nation's two largest labor unions -- they wield enormous political influence and aren't afraid to use it. Much of this power comes through the dues that union leaders deduct from teachers' paychecks, supposedly to improve the working conditions of the teachers they represent. In California, for example, the state teachers' association represents 340,000 workers and collects more than $150 million each year in mandatory dues.
But in reality, the unions often promote an agenda that doesn't reflect the interests of their members. Performance-based pay for teachers is a prime example of how the unions work directly against their members' own best interests. In inner-city schools, the best teachers often leave after just a year or two for better salaries, nicer neighborhoods and less stressful work. Merit pay, however, makes it possible for these schools to retain effective teachers by paying them more. But the unions usually fight tooth and nail against such measures.
By standing against proven reform, the union agenda also harms the nation's schoolchildren.
Using member dues, unions regularly lobby against efforts to allow students trapped in underperforming schools to transfer to better schools by using vouchers. Never mind the fact that study after study has demonstrated that voucher systems boost student achievement in both public and private schools, regardless of socioeconomic background.
Further, when using their collective-bargaining powers, teacher-union leaders often rely on tough, confrontational tactics to win concessions from local school boards. Across the country, they've negotiated generous taxpayer subsidies and other unfair benefits.
In cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, a teacher who decides against joining the local union is required by contract to pay a fee to that union.
Most large school districts also offer paid leave for teachers to conduct union business. For example, San Diego's contract gives union members an "unlimited number of workdays per fiscal year of leave to use for association business." And in Providence, teachers selected by their union to serve as delegates to any AFL-CIO meeting are eligible for five paid days of leave. This places a double cost burden on schools. In addition to paying the absent teachers their full salary, many districts are also responsible for finding and paying substitute teachers.
Shockingly, in some cities, teachers on paid leave can be hired as substitute teachers without terminating their leave. In other words, a teacher could take time off but continue working as a substitute teacher collecting two paychecks, at the same time, from the same school. In many districts, schools must give unions free use of equipment like copy machines, telephones and computers. Some districts are even contractually obligated to provide union presidents with free office space and time at faculty meetings.
Further, if city and state governments simply eliminated the taxpayer subsidies that are being used to support union activities each year, they could channel that money back to providing a high-quality education to every student, using the funds to raise teacher pay to attract the best and brightest.
Steve Jobs has started an important conversation about the impact of America's teachers unions. Those who seek to improve the quality of our nation's public schools -- parents, teachers and local school-board members -- would be wise to take part.

David White is an adjunct scholar at the Lexington Institute.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Teachers Unions Behind Group To Take Away School Choice From Utahns.

If you are not a regular reader of the Education Intelligence Agency you should be. This is some of the great stuff you are missing.

Utahns for Public Schools = NEA UniServ. With the passage of a statewide voucher program into law in Utah, opponents have decided to gather signatures for a referendum that would first suspend, then overturn the law. The main group is working under the banner Utahns for Public Schools. An alert EIA reader noticed something unusual about the organization. Upon deeper investigation, the roots of Utahns for Public Schools are beginning to show.

On its website, the coalition describes itself as "a group of parents, teachers, and others interested in the quality of education provided to Utah children." This sounds a lot better to the general public and the press than "a group of employees and officers of the Utah Education Association and the Utah PTA."

The organization lists 128 names as county contacts for people interested in signing or distributing the petition against the voucher law. The 128 names are of 50 individuals, almost all of whom can be identified by very specific job titles.

Of the 50 people, 13 are UniServ directors employed by the Utah Education Association, whose pay is subsidized by grants from the National Education Association. Another 12 contacts are elected officers or representatives of the Utah Education Association and its local affiliates, and another 14 contacts are regional directors of the Utah PTA. The jobs of the other 11 contacts could not be immediately determined.

Quote of the Week. "A 4% increase in teachers across the state is not particularly large, even amidst declining student enrollment." – Vermont-NEA Angelo J. Dorta. (March 2007 Vermont-NEA Today)

The Michigan Teacher Glut

"There are thousands and thousands of teachers without job opportunities in Michigan," says Michigan State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan.

Except when it comes to applying for federal supplemental loans for critical teacher shortage areas. Then the state of Michigan has a long, long list of openings for teachers.

Or is it indeed a glut? They are turning away candidates at the teacher colleges in Ontario, Canada, and part of the reason is the oversupply of teachers from "border schools" - that is, teacher colleges in Buffalo and other American cities.

"It's simple supply and demand," said a Canadian official.

Not so simple for some.

For more great information from the Education Intelligence Agency click here.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Virtual Schools: Parents over Prejudice

The following piece is from the Spontaneous Solutions A publication of the Illinois Policy Institute posted by Collin Hitt. Please be sure to contact your legislator at tell them to vote no on House Bill 232.

Virtual Schools: Parents over Prejudice

posted by Collin Hitt

The following post discusses 'virtual schools.' For more on virtual schools, and on the Chicago Virtual Charter School, go here.

I have been closely following a particular piece of legislation, House Bill 232, commonly called a 'virtual school ban.' Alexander Russo picked up on my edspresso post on the subject last week, and did a good job discussing the controversy that surrounds virtual schools.

In Illinois, both the Chicago Teachers Union and Representative Monique Davis have taken measures to close Illinois' lone virtual charter school. The Chicago Teachers Union's motives are obvious. Davis' are somewhat more...complex.

During a meeting of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee last month, while her virtual school ban was being debated, Davis stated, "Tomorrow, who knows what somebody's bright idea may be, to pick people, who...Some people give less than a darn whether they get educated or not. And I am going to tell you, I am not going to sit by and have you miseducate a number of people to fill up the prisons in the state of Illinois."

Davis' comments were directed at the staff, parents and students of the Chicago Virtual Charter School attending the committee meeting on February 22. I was present at that meeting, and able to witness the Representative's behavior first-hand. I believe her comments were made in very poor taste. But that's not the point. In her diatribe against parents, she spoke to the central issue of school choice.

And so did Lilly Henton, the aunt of a CVCS student and of the 'you' who Davis was talking to: "This is all about integrity - the integrity of the parent, in their home. You asked us to be more involved with our children and then when we try to be we get all kinds of heat and questions about our integrity..."

Ms. Henton had, at the time, been asked to prove that students were doing their own homework. She continued thus: "I am not helping Angelie by doing her homework...

"How am I going to teach Angelie about how to succeed, if I'm doing her homework? I am on there with her, to help her, not do it for her. That's not going to make her a better citizen. That's not going to make her a better student. That will not help my niece..."

The decision to chaperon a child's education, rather than send her to school all day, is not one that a parent takes lightly. A virtual classroom is not the best environment for every child. Parents know this. But a CPS classroom is not the best environment for every child, either, to say the least.

I have visited the CVCS campus. I have met with parents. I have written and published on the issue, but my familiarity with the school pales in comparison to that of the hundreds of parents who have put their children in - and kept them in - the Chicago Virtual Charter School.

So, I have to wonder, who are the parents to whom Ms. Davis was referring? Those who don't give a darn about education? Surely, they are out there. But they aren't touring virtual schools. They aren't staying home with their children, and attending training seminars on how to use new software. Which begs the question, are lawmakers like Davis so traumatized by the poor choices of a select few that she is willing to stigmatize her entire electorate?

The fact is, the only way to help the children of 'those parents' is to improve their public schools. And those schools will only be improved by the competive pressures that mount once parents are offered a diverse array of unique schools from which they can choose.

The Chicago Virtual Charter School is certainly a unique school. If the school is allowed to remain open, time will tell and parents will decide if they want to send their children there. I suspect that they will, as long as they have the opportunity to do so.

To read more of Collin Hitt's articles go to the Spontaneous Solutions website. Be sure to visit the site so you can visit the links in his above post.