Dems Stubbornly Refuse to Embrace Any Form of School Choice

It is well-known that most, but not all, Democrats oppose school choice programs. In the last week, Democrats have reaffirmed this opposition, even in the case of programs that do not harm or take resources from public schools.

On Tuesday, Senate Education Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Ranking Member Patty Murray, D-Wash., released a bipartisan draft bill to reform No Child Left Behind. Missing from the draft bill was portability for Title I funding, which would allow students in impoverished families to use their federal education funding at any public school of their choice.

Portable funding, also known as “backpack funding” because it follows the child, was included as an option in a draft bill released by Alexander earlier this year and a K-12 education reform bill that passed the House education committee in February.

An important nuance in the plan: States would be allowed, but not mandated, to implement portable federal funding. But allowing some states to use this formula for school choice funding was too much for Democrats. President Obama’s veto threat of the House education bill specifically cited the portability section as a reason to veto the bill. Committed to education reform that might actually pass the Senate and still be a net benefit for students, Alexander didn’t force portability into the draft bill negotiated with Murray.

Read the rest at the Washington Examiner…

Drug Reform Is About Animal Rights, Too

As the United States prepares to enter its 44th year waging a “war on drugs,” more and more Americans have come tounderstand the consequences of this failed policy. But while economists underline theinordinate financial costs and civil rights activists lament over disproportionate arrest rates, Fourth Amendment violations and the human cost of police militarization, there’s a group of drug war casualties that many often neglect: animals.

Shortly after 9 pm on March 9, an Ohio SWAT team executing a no-knock raid,busted down the front door of Susan Smith’s home and tossed inside a flashbang grenade. Susan’s husband, obeying police command, rushed to cage their pit bull, Lulu. But in the panicked frenzy, Lulu managed to break free from her cage and darted around the house, prompting one of the police officers to discharge his weapon. In a split second, Lulu had been shot. The wounded dog then limped out the broken-down door to the front yard, where neighbors say she was shot at least three more times. The reason for the raid? Police suspected that the Smith family had marijuana in the house.

Stories like Lulu’s are tragic to hear, but they highlight an important group of drug war casualties that is often neglected. Most people are so preoccupied by the use of excessive force and the human casualties claimed during drug searches, that they often overlook “man’s best friend,” who often just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Today, a dog is shot by law enforcement every 98 minutes, while the number of officers who have been killed by a dog over the past 50 years rests at zero.

Surely, a large factor in the excessive number of shootings is the inadequate training police have in dealing with canines – a pet nearly half of all US households have. But do dogs really pose that big of a threat to police? As Radley Balko pointed out in the Daily Beast back in 2009, “If dangerous dogs are so common, one would expect to find frequent reports of vicious attacks on meter readers, postal workers, firemen, and delivery workers.” Yet this has not been the case.

Read the rest at Truthout…

Union Bosses Use Fast-Food Workers For Personal Gain

On April 15, the Service Employees International Union is organizing nationwide fast food worker strikes to draw attention to its push for a $15 hourly wage. While such protests may seem to be grassroots efforts led by struggling workers, major unions fund and promote them. Unions desperately need to extend their reach to the high-turnover fast food industry if they are to stem sharply declining membership rolls.

Unions often make contact and generate political activism from low-wage employees through what they call “worker centers,” which conduct activities similar to those of unions but with fewer legal restrictions and oversight. My Manhattan Institute colleague Diana Furchtgott-Roth argues these worker centers are doing unions’ dirty work. As she wrote during similar strikes in November 2013, “Unlike worker centers, unions must hold supervised elections so that members can elect union officials as representatives. Worker centers do not necessarily represent employees. Employees can decertify a union—dismiss it from representing them—but they cannot dismiss a worker center” (emphasis added).

Worker Centers Are Union Branches

Unions are organized as 501(c)(5) entities. They need to hold elections, file detailed financial reports with the Labor Department, and cannot receive tax-deductible contributions. Alternatively, many worker centers are organized as 501(c)(3) charities, which means they can receive tax-deductible donations and they are not accountable to the workers they claim to represent.

Recently-released union financial reports show the strong financial connections between unions and worker centers. Among the prominent worker centers that received funding from the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU’s) national headquarters in 2014 were Interfaith Worker Justice ($50,000) and New York Communities for Change ($50,000). NYCC is a remnant of the disgraced community organizing group ACORN, which was investigated multiple times for fraudulent voter registration and financial fraud. The rebranding effort was not comprehensive, as NYCC remains at the same Brooklyn address that ACORN occupied. Jobs with Justice, a labor organizing group that does not consider itself a worker center, received $226,600 from SEIU.

Union financial support of worker centers does not end with the SEIU. Last year, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union gave Jobs with Justice $223,000, Interfaith Worker Justice $117,000, and NYCC $5,000. These two unions stand to benefit the most from unionizing fast food workers.

Read the rest at the Federalist…