How Teachers Can Drive Education Reform

Teachers often feel helpless when trying to reform their own schools, but they may not be as powerless as they think. That’s the message that Rick Hess, the Director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, tries to empower teachers with in his book, The Cage-Busting Teacher.

Cage-busting isn’t when teachers meet with policymakers or sit on a new committee, Hess said at an book event on Wednesday. “It’s cage-busting when teachers identify the things that stop them from doing their best work, come up with better solutions that they can share with colleagues, or administrators or policymakers, and find constructive ways to push those solutions so that they have more time, passion and energy to do the stuff that they’re in the classroom to do.”

A common theme at the event was turning complaints into solutions. “Teachers ought to focus on identifying problems,” Hess, a former high school social studies teacher, said. “They ought to focus not just on complaining about them, but on offering solutions, alternatives, ways to do it better.”

The event highlighted teachers who took education reform into their own hands and helped better their schools.

That reform often requires principals who are open to changing the system and new ideas. Within that parameter, a lot can be accomplished if teachers just ask.

Jason Karmas taught math for eight years at John Philip Sousa Middle School in Washington, D.C. He was struggling to teach his students three years of math in one year, but told his principal that, with double the class time, it might be possible. His principal was open to the idea and told Karmas they could move forward if he found a way to make it work with the schedule.

Read the rest at the Washington Examiner…

Working for the Tax Man

Though April 15 has passed, Americans are still a week away from the finish line when it comes to paying their taxes. This year, it will take the average American until April 24 to work enough to pay off their share of federal, state, and local taxes. We spend 30 percent of the year working to pay the government before we can start to keep the money that we earn.

April 24 is the average Tax Freedom Day, as calculated by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. But the date when Americans are free to start working for themselves varies across states and income levels.

In total, Americans will pay about $4.8 trillion in taxes this year, which is more than they’ll spend on food, clothing and housing combined. Of this total, $3.3 trillion goes to the federal government and $1.5 trillion is paid to state and local governments.

Connecticut and New Jersey share the infamous honor of having the latest Tax Freedom Day. Average residents of these states are not free to keep the money that they earn for about another month, until May 13. On the other end of the spectrum, Louisiana residents had their average total tax bill paid off two weeks ago, on April 2.

This spread between high- and low-tax states would be even wider if not for the federal deduction of state and local taxes, which totaled $56 billion last year. Currently, these taxes can be subtracted from total federal taxable income, which creates a large subsidy for high-tax jurisdictions.

Taxpayers in low-tax states are forced to pay higher federal taxes to cover the reduced burden on those in high-tax states. State and local governments are rewarded for poor fiscal management since they can export part of their costs to residents of other states.

Read the rest at U.S. News…

Three Liberal Myths About Taxes Debunked

April 15 marked Tax Day in the United States and sparked an expected national conversation about the role of government.

One would think the day millions of Americans scramble to send off their returns to the IRS wouldn’t be the most ideal to advocate raising taxes, but many prominent liberal pundits nevertheless called for squeezing “the rich.”

One such voice is Robert Reich, former secretary of labor under the Clinton administration and social media superstar. Reich reposted one of his popular videos on Facebook yesterday listing “three reasons why taxes have to be raised on the richest Americans.”

Reich’s reasons are actually common myths among the left that deserve some serious scrutiny from a free-market perspective.

We have a large budget deficit and need more tax revenue.

With a federal deficit of $468 billion in 2015 and a national debt of $18 trillion, there’s no doubt that the U.S. is in big fiscal trouble. However, this is ultimately a problem of spending, not revenue. That is, the government is in debt because it’s spending beyond its means, not because it’s failing to raise enough money.

In fact, federal revenues have only increased after adjusting for inflation since the end of the Great Recession in 2009. Mandatory spending on entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security is out of control, and discretionary spending on bloated bureaucracies like the Department of Defense isn’t much better. The key to fixing America’s deficits is budget reform, not tax hikes.

Read the rest at Rare…