Get weekly updates from Reason.
Today's Top Topics
December 7, 2013
Examining the results in districts using portable student funding
The Houston Independent School District scored an A+ thanks to significant test score improvements by disadvantaged students and a significant closing of the achievement gap between affluent and low-income students, according to Reason Foundation’s new Weighted Student Formula Yearbook.
Examining 14 school districts currently using portable student funding, the Weighted Student Formula Yearbook grades and ranks each district in 10 categories, including test scores, achievement gaps, graduation rates, and transparency.
“Some of the country’s largest school districts are now using portable or backpack funding systems that allow money to follow students to their schools,” said Lisa Snell, co-author of the report and director of education at Reason Foundation. “This study gives us the ability to make apples-to-apples comparisons, identify what’s helping kids, and flag what may need to be done differently.”
Houston outperformed all other districts, scoring an A+ in the rankings due in large part to an impressive reduction in achievement gaps. Hartford, Cincinnati and Oakland were the other districts earning A grades. Minneapolis, San Francisco, Boston and Poudre (CO) received B grades. Baltimore’s poor proficiency rates in reading, math, and science along with large achievement gaps between students of different income levels resulted in the report’s only F. The study’s rankings and grades are:
The Department of Energy’s Stimulus Loans Went to “Junk” Grade Investments and Firms That Spent the Most Lobbying
Study details the role political connections and lobbying played in securing loans
A new Reason Foundation study finds 22 out of 26 projects were rated as “junk” grade investments before they were awarded taxpayer-backed loans as part of the Department of Energy’s Section 1705 loan program, which was part of the 2009 stimulus bill that focused on renewable energy, electric power transmission, and biofuels projects.
The report also highlights taxpayer-backed loans given to companies with ties to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, former Vice President Al Gore, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, and a company founded by former Maine Gov. Angus Reid, who is now a U.S. Senator. According to the Reason Foundation study, the companies that spent the most on lobbying received the biggest Section 1705 loans.
“These projects were rated by credit rating agencies as junk investments with a high likelihood of failure, but the Department of Energy didn’t seem to care because it was giving loans to the firms that were well connected or were spending the most on lobbying,” said Julian Morris, vice president of Reason Foundation and co-author of the report.
The Reason Foundation report also questions why 83 percent of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Section 1705 loans went to solar energy projects, with wind receiving 11 percent of the funds.
Florida taxpayers face huge operating deficits come 2026 if the project goes ahead
The Tampa to Orlando high-speed rail project was cancelled by Governor Rick Scott in 2011 to shield Florida taxpayers from billions of dollars in liabilities. Yet, a recent report for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) estimated that the line could have earned an operating surplus of $38.0 million by 2026. This policy brief examines the financial claims as contained in the FDOT report. It finds that the FDOT surplus projection is based on new, highly optimistic ridership projections. As a result, the projection could prove unrealistic by as much as $94 million to $359 million in 2026, with Florida taxpayers left to cover the shortfall.
Transportation improvements need to be made in Cobb County before Atlanta Braves move
The announcement that the Atlanta Braves are abandoning Turner Field in downtown Atlanta for a location in the suburbs was a shock to almost everybody. Before any move Cobb has to improve its transportation system. Improvements should consist of freeway interchanges, arterial road widenings, fixed-route transit improvements and shuttle buses near gametime.
TSA security rationale in question, O'Hare's congestion-reducing runway revamp, Expanding PreCheck prompts criticisms
In this issue:
- TSA security rationale in question
- O'Hare's congestion-reducing runway revamp
- Expanding PreCheck prompts criticisms
- Fresh thinking on aviation issues
- Another try for a 2nd Atlanta airport
- Airport privatization news from Europe
- News Notes
- Quotable Quotes
The Legislative Analyst's Office says the state budget is in its best shape in over a decade, and predicts California will have a nearly $10 billion surplus in five years. Color me skeptical. Many Sacramento lawmakers are already planning ways to spend that money. It's also important to note that the state budget would have a surplus only if the tens of billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities for government worker pensions and healthcare benefits are ignored. But let's put that aside for now and accept the rosy scenario of upcoming budget surpluses in years to come. What should the state government do with all this extra money, if it appears?
Recent report provides interesting snapshot of the lanes' first year in operation
In recent years, managed lane projects—projects involving the tolling of highway lanes where prices vary throughout the day depending on the amount of traffic in the lanes (e.g., the higher the traffic, the higher the toll) to maintain free-flow conditions—have been proliferating in various metro areas, as has the private financing of public highway infrastructure projects through public-private partnerships. One project that combines both in a 75-year long-term concession is the 495 Express Lanes project on the Northern Virginia portion of Interstate 495 (the Capital Beltway), which recently celebrated its first anniversary. A recent report provides an interesting snapshot of the first year in operation.
Subsidies for rural broadband are unnecessary, reduce competition and undermine private infrastructure investment
It is now possible to obtain 3Mbps or faster rates of data transfer practically anywhere, either over 4G cellular wireless, or over satellite. The National Broadband Map, commissioned by the Federal Communications Commission, shows that more than 99.9 percent of Americans have access to some form of broadband with download speed in excess of 3 Mbps. In many rural areas, such services can be delivered at significantly lower cost than through new cable or fiber lines. As a result, no more subsidies for rural broadband are needed.
Israeli Supreme Court strikes down privatization statute on “liberty” and “dignity” grounds
This month is the fourth anniversary of an important date in privatization history. On November 19, 2009, in Academic Center of Law and Business, Human Rights Division v. Minister of Finance, the Israeli Supreme Court struck down a statute passed by the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) allowing for private prisons. This opinion is interesting for Americans for a number of reasons. First, it held private prisons unconstitutional based on the most general of constitutional provisions, the rights to “liberty” and “dignity,” and based on very high-level political theory—rather than predictions about how the different sectors might violate inmates’ rights, which one would expect in the U.S. constitutional tradition. Second, the decision is part of an emerging series of recent rulings by foreign courts on private delegations of coercive power. Third, the Israeli Supreme Court enjoys substantial respect in comparative constitutional law circles worldwide, so there’s a possibility that similar reasoning will spread to other countries.
- Human Rights Watch Exposes Injustice of Plea Bargains and Mandatory Minimums (12/6)
- Southwest Struggles As Legacy Airlines Establish Solid Business Models (12/6)
- Texas Families Show Strong Demand for More School Choice (12/5)
- TSA Behavior Detection Blasted by GAO (12/5)
- Privatization & Government Reform Newsletter #2 (Dec 2013 edition) (12/3)
Latest From Reason
A pragmatic argument for coercive vaccination
Less than 0.1 percent of the industry's workforce participated.
Remember how well Cash for Clunkers worked out?
And keeping the troops there won't change that.