Can school districts reform themselves?
Plus: Leveling the playing field for apprenticeships; revisiting investor rules; and the case for more police
District sponsorship dramatically improved results in Camden, New Jersey: In 2012, New Jersey passed the Urban Hope Act, allowing school districts identified as “failing” to sponsor charter schools. Camden, compelled by a state takeover, was the only district to do so, and the results were dramatic: On all measures, for all students, Camden’s “Renaissance” charters significantly outperformed traditional district schools. In fact, just by attending a Renaissance charter rather than the district-run school in the same neighborhood, students received the equivalent of a whopping 162 additional days of reading and 103 additional days of math instruction. Camden’s district-sponsorship success makes a compelling case for expanding educational options for families by any means necessary, but FREOPP Research Fellow Gavin Schiffres cautions that families should not rely on districts to expand competition on their own. Decentralizing power and allowing multiple entities to sponsor charters and otherwise compete in the educational marketplace is the only way to consistently and broadly improve outcomes for all students.
After student loan cancellation, Congress should take another look at apprenticeships: When President Biden used executive fiat to forgive billions in student loan debt, he increased the de facto federal subsidy to traditional colleges and universities while tacitly admitting that these schools had failed to deliver enough value to students to allow them to pay their debts. In a roundtable briefing for the House Select Committee on the Economy this week, FREOPP Senior Fellow Preston Cooper noted that associate degrees and certificates in certain programs provide a better return on investment than many four-year college degrees and that apprenticeships are key avenues for upward mobility. But the government has its thumb on the scale in favor of traditional colleges and universities through Pell Grants, federal student loans, tuition tax credits, direct state appropriations, tax-exempt endowments, and more. To expand pathways to the middle class, Congress should steer funding away from colleges that fail to provide a return on investment and toward programs—including apprenticeships and other non-traditional opportunities—that have a proven track record of success.
How sensible are accredited investor requirements? In the investment world, “accredited investors” enjoy special status that allows them to invest in offerings like hedge funds, venture capital, private equity, angel investments, and other specialty investment funds. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) restricts access to these kinds of investments because it deems them too risky for middle-class investors. FREOPP Visiting Fellow Jackson Mejia makes the case that this regulatory paternalism is unwarranted. Research indicates that differences in financial literacy between those with middle and high incomes are small. Meanwhile, barring those of more modest means from riskier offerings actually increases market volatility by limiting the number of market actors and harms small-time investors by shutting them out of promising—and increasingly common—investment options. The SEC should acknowledge that its paternalistic assumptions are not borne out by data and liberalize its accredited investor rules.
Making communities safer sometimes means more police: On a recent trip to the Bay Area, FREOPP Research Fellow Jonathan Blanks encountered news of a spate of violence against the area’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community, including the murder of a beloved 60-year-old dentist. Unfortunately, the local council member who responded by describing the need to marshal “resources” and “services” to address “real causes” of violence like joblessness and lack of affordable housing is sending the wrong message to perpetrators. While policy changes to make people’s lives better are necessary to a long-term anti-crime strategy, responsible governance demands that those who act out violently face immediate apprehension and removal from society. Thus, the Oakland police department’s decision to deter crime with a more visible police presence is the right move. Assigning regular police patrols in specific “hot spots” is a practice backed up by research experiments conducted across the country and one of the most important tactics for keeping communities safe.
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