Cato @ Liberty
Unintended Impacts of “Quality Control” on School Quality in Louisiana
Tue, 27 Jun 2017 16:20 EDT

My colleagues from the School Choice Demonstration Project and I just released the official third year reports on the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP). In addition to the experimental study on student test scores, my coauthors and I released a descriptive analysis of the types of private schools that chose to participate in the voucher program.

Positive Test Score Trend

The main report indicates that the LSP had negative impacts on student math test scores for the first two years of the program. Nonetheless, the program did not have any statistically significant impacts on student achievement by the end of year three. These results can be found in Figure 1 (from the report) below:

Source: Mills & Wolf (2017). “How Has the Louisiana Scholarship Program Affected Students? A Comprehensive Summary of Effects After Three Years.” School Choice Demonstration Project, Department of Education Reform, University of Arkansas.

This upward trend is not unusual. The recent meta-analysis of 19 experimental voucher studies shows that private school choice programs are better at shaping test scores after a few years. This is likely because children need to adjust to their new educational settings and private institutions must respond to the environmental shift in the market for schooling.

The positive test score trend was also found in the Indiana study, and can be interpreted in two different ways:

  1. Private schools in voucher programs adjust and improve after a few years of participation.
  2. The incentive structure for private schools shifts from a focus on character education towards a focus on test scores since the state uses test scores as its preferred educational accountability measure.

Obviously, the second explanation is less optimistic since test scores do not necessarily convert to the long-run outcomes that we actually care about.

Regulation Reduces School Quality

In the final report, we examine the difference in the types of schools that decide to participate in the DC, Indiana, and Louisiana voucher programs. As shown in Figure 2 below, we find that only a third of the private schools in Louisiana decide to participate in their program, while between 70-78% participate in DC and Indiana.

This is likely because the LSP has the strongest regulatory environment and, therefore, the greatest costs associated with participation. Private schools participating in the program must serve the most disadvantaged students, use the state standardized test, prohibit parental copay, report finances to the government, and surrender their admissions process over to the state.

We find that the schools that are willing to put up with all of the additional costs are the ones most desperate for funding. Using enrollment, tuition, and revenue levels as proxies, we find that lower quality institutions choose to participate in the LSP. Consequently, the LSP experiment can only measure the effects of being randomly assigned to one of the lower-quality private schools in the state.

Of course, decision-makers impose regulations on private schools in an effort to make it impossible for disadvantaged families to make bad choices. However, the very act of attempting to control quality ironically leads to a reduction in the quality of educational options available to children in need. Instead, policy-makers ought to be more confident in the decision-making abilities of the people most interested in the educational success of their children: parents.

No Sanctuary for Criminals Act: An Anti-Federalist “Immigration” Bill
Tue, 27 Jun 2017 14:05 EDT

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote this week on the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act” (H.R. 3003). The bill’s primary purpose is to threaten and punish cities and states that fail to do the bidding of federal immigration agents. It would also make it more difficult to hold state and local officers accountable for violations of the Constitution committed pursuant to federal commands.  

H.R. 3003 would impose mandates on states

The heart of the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act would prohibit any policies that restrict state or local law enforcement officials from “assisting or cooperating with Federal law enforcement entities, officials, or other personnel regarding the enforcement of” immigration laws (pp. 2-3). It would also ban restrictions on collecting people’s immigration status, reporting them to the federal government, or complying with requests for that information from the federal government.

These provisions purport to remove the authority of state or local police departments or state or local legislatures to determine how their law enforcement resources are used. This violates a basic principle of federalism, which many conservatives have long championed, that the federal government should leave states to experiment with their own policies. I wonder whether Republican members of Congress would still support this legislation if they could imagine Democrats applying this same principle to federal gun laws in the future.

H.R. 3003 would attempt to compel compliance with federal grants

Supreme Court precedent suggests that Congress cannot actually enforce such a ban on state or local policies. Perhaps with this in mind, the bill attempts to enforce “compliance” with its possibly unconstitutional mandates by imposing monetary penalties. It would strip any non-compliant state or locality of any “grant administered by the Department of Justice or the Department of Homeland Security that is substantially related to law enforcement, terrorism, national security, immigration, or naturalization” (pp. 3-4).

The Supreme Court has held that there are limits to this type of federal coercion of states, but it’s still unclear where exactly those limits are. My colleague Trevor Burrus has written about the constitutional issues here with regard to a similar proposal a few years ago. As he wrote then:

The absolute monetary size of the grant certainly has something to do with coercion, but other factors can be taken into account… Therefore, it is legitimate to look not just to the size of the grants, but to the type of grants used to induce states into not passing [“sanctuary” laws]. Highway funding is one thing, but national security, law enforcement, and FEMA grants are entirely different.

Regardless of its constitutionality, however, the important issue here is that this type of heavy-handed approach to federal-state relations is at odds with federalist principles and many years of conservative and Republican rhetoric. Federalism is an important safeguard for liberty, and in its exuberance to obtain a certain policy result, Congress should not lose sight of this principle.

H.R. 3003 would deny state sovereignty

The legislation, however, would go even further. It would allow a private right of action against states by any individual or immediate family member of an individual who is a victim of a felony committed by an immigrant released from state or local custody against the wishes of the federal government (pp. 10-11). This could also run afoul of the Constitution because the Supreme Court has held that the federal government cannot abrogate state sovereign immunity except in certain very limited circumstances, such as to protect rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

Regardless of the constitutionality, this provision is another incredible overreach, attempting to threaten states into following the bidding of the federal government on immigration. While the bill requires that the victims bring the claim within 10 years of the offense, there is no restriction at all on how long after the release of the person they may bring the claim. Indeed, nothing in the bill prevents a state from being subject to a lawsuit by a victim of a person released in 2017 who commits a crime in 2057.

Most importantly, states simply should not be liable for crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants that they release if they have no reason to believe that they are a threat. Each level of government only has so many resources. Requiring them to use those resources in ways that the federal government wants is wrong. If Congress bullies states or localities into spending their limited resources on locking up nonviolent immigrants and a violent felon gets away or must be released as a result, should the federal government be held liable for the consequences?

H.R. 3003 would prevent states from obtaining justice for crime victims and limit accountability for state constitutional violations

Finally, there is a provision that bans the federal government from transferring a person for prosecution to a state or locality deemed in violation of the mandates under the law (pp. 4-5). I don’t have a problem with not transferring every immigrant prisoner—I supported exercising such discretion in a prior post in certain cases—but an outright prohibition is wrong. It automatically denies these states or localities the ability to obtain justice for victims of crimes in their jurisdiction without any type of individualized evaluation. Even if you think that non-compliant states or localities should be punished, such an automatic denial of justice for victims is wrong. Should a murderer escape justice simply because the state refuses to hold non-felon unauthorized immigrants for the federal authorities?

The bill would also prohibit lawsuits against state and local officials who violate individuals’ constitutional rights by holding them at the request of the federal government. The bill would deem the officials to have acted on behalf of the United States and require all lawsuits to name the United States as the defendant (pp. 8-9). In several cases, courts have found that holding immigrants pursuant to a detainer can violate their constitutional rights. In one case, a U.S. citizen brought a case against a county in Pennsylvania for detaining him wrongfully, and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals found that localities had no obligation to hold a person on behalf of the federal government and that they could be found liable. The county settled for $95,000. There are several other cases of this kind.

This limitation on liability appears intended to obstruct local and state accountability for constitutional violations. How is that possibly a “conservative” idea?

The bill would exacerbate this problem by simultaneously allowing states a much longer period of detention without charges. The current Trump administration detainer form specifies that a person cannot be held for more than 48 hours. H.R. 3003 would allow states and localities to maintain custody in some circumstances for twice as long (p. 8).

Preferably for Reasons of Good Policy rather than Political Revenge, Trump and Republicans Should End Subsidies for the OECD
Mon, 26 Jun 2017 15:48 EDT

If I was Captain Ahab in a Herman Melville novel, my Moby Dick would be the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. I have spent more than 15 years fighting that Paris-based bureaucracy. Even to the point that the OECD threatened to throw me in a Mexican jail.

So when I had a chance earlier today to comment on the OECD’s statist agenda, I could barely contain myself

Notwithstanding the glitch at the beginning (the perils of a producer talking in my ear), I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to castigate the OECD.

Indeed, returning to my Moby Dick analogy, I’m increasingly hopeful that the harpoons I keep throwing at the OECD may finally draw some blood.

In his budget, President Trump has proposed to cut overall spending for international organizations. And we’re talking about a real budget cut, not the phony kind of cut where spending merely grows at a slightly slower rate.

The budget doesn’t specify funding levels for the various bureaucracies, but various Administration officials have told me that their goal is to completely defund the Paris-based bureaucracy.

To quote Chris Matthews, this definitely sends a thrill up my leg.

But I’m trying not to get too excited. It’s still up to Congress to decide OECD funding, and the bureaucrats in Paris have been very clever about currying favor with the members of the subcommittee that doles out cash for international organizations.

Though as I mentioned in the interview, the OECD didn’t do itself any favors by openly trashing Trump last year. Even if they have their doubts about Trump, I suspect most GOPers in Congress aren’t happy that the bureaucrats in Paris were trying to tilt the election for Hillary Clinton.

Here are some examples.

The OECD’s number-two bureaucrat, Doug Frantz, actually equated America’s president with the former head of Germany’s National Socialist Workers Party.

The Deputy Secretary General of the OECD has described…Donald Trump as a “lunatic” whose political rise mirrors that of Hitler and Mussolini. …Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week, Doug Frantz said…“if you look at the basis ‘us and them’ that Donald Trump sets up, that Hitler set up, that Mussolini set up, then you can begin to at least be concerned and I’m concerned: I think any right-minded person should be concerned…The person who sits in the White House is the most powerful person in the world and if that person is someone who follows every whim and appeals to the most base instincts of a population, then we’re all under real threat”.

And another news report caught the OECD’s Secretary General, Angel Gurria, basically asserting that Trump is racist.

Angel Gurria, secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development  and former Mexican foreign minister, says the word “racist” can be applied to Donald Trump. …Gurria tells UpFront’s Mehdi Hasan: “I would tend to agree with those who say that this is not only misinformed, but yes, I think the word racist can be applied. I think that because the American public is wise, it will then act in consequence,” Gurria adds.

By the way, I’m making sure to share these partisan statements with lots of people in Congress and the Administration.

In an ideal world, lawmakers would defund the OECD because it is an egregious waste of money. But if they defund the bureaucracy because its top two officials tried to interfere with the US election, I’ll still be happy with the final outcome.

I’ll close by recycling the video on the OECD that I narrated for the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

P.S. In the interest of fairness, I’ll acknowledge that the OECD occasionally produces good work. I’ve even favorably cited research from the bureaucracy on issues such as government spending, tax policy, and expenditure limits.

But even if the bureaucracy ended its statist advocacy agenda and gave staff economists carte blanche to produce good papers, that still wouldn’t change my view that American tax dollars should not be funding the OECD. Though I confess it would be a much less attractive target if it returned to its original mission of collecting statistics and publishing studies.