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Join Us: Something Special For School Choice Supporters

The last decade in North Carolina has been one of much-needed advances for parents looking for a fair shake for their children — a school and/or environment that works for THEM, not for the status-quo system. And now, as National School Choice Week nears, the John Locke Foundation invites you to a very special breakfast to discuss choice and options, and where North Carolina goes from here. We hope you’ll join us. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015
7:30 a.m.

Raleigh City Club, 28th Floor Wells Fargo Building, 150 Fayetteville St., Raleigh, NC

Price: The Breakfast is Free, but we do need your registration

As American’s largest annual celebration of educational opportunity, National School Choice Week (January 25-31) illustrates the inclusiveness and diversity of the school choice movement. In honor of this week, the John Locke Foundation is hosting a breakfast event highlighting all types of education options for families.

Mr. Bob Bowdon, Founder of Choice Media, and Director of the documentary film, “The Ticket: The Many Faces of School Choice” will give his view from a national perspective. Representative Paul (Skip) Stam, Pro Temper of the North Carolina House of Representatives, will share a view from the General Assembly. Dr. Michael Fedewa, Superintendent of Schools for the Raleigh Diocese, will provide us with a perspective on working with the families currently receiving a North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship. Mrs. Jeannie Metcalfe Vice Chair of the Winston Salem/Forsyth County School Board, will share their District’s choice plan for traditional public school families.

Charter schools, home schools, and virtual schools, will be highlighted. A screening of the documentary, “The Ticket: The Many Faces of School Choice,” will also be included in this timely program. The film focuses on different forms of school choice while traveling on a whistle stop train tour across America.

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Mainstream Media Narrative: Lower Gas Prices Are Bad For Us!

JLF’s Roy Cordato takes on the media narrative that has emerged over the past several weeks as lower gas prices have taken hold — that lower gas prices are bad for us. Actually, no. 

Gasoline and other petroleum-based fuels are an input into every production process everywhere, some more than others. For example, agriculture — from planting and harvesting to feeding and maintaining livestock to transporting agricultural products, sometimes from one part of the country to the other or around the world — is fuel intensive. The USDA describes agricultural production as “sensitive to energy costs” and notes that “higher energy-related production costs…generally lower agricultural output, raise prices of agricultural products, and reduce farm income.” Of course, this means that the opposite is also true. Lower energy costs will result in greater output, higher farm income, and lower food prices. This is welcome news in an inflationary environment where food prices have been increasing at over twice the inflation rate in general.

This relationship between lower oil prices, increased productivity and lower prices is not just true of agriculture but of industries across the economy. And it is not simply about lower gasoline and energy costs but the cost of all petroleum based products, many of which are an integral part of production activities — plastics and chemicals immediately come to mind. The lower the costs of these inputs, the lower the costs of production across the board, the greater the increase in output and job growth, and the lower the prices for consumers.

So while the argument that people are better off because lower gas prices leave them with more to spend on other things is true as far as it goes, the fact is that those other things will also likely cost less because of the supply side effects of lower oil prices generally.

But if the only analysis of cheaper oil and gasoline that a person is exposed to comes from the mainstream media, he would think that these lower gas prices are causing nothing but misery. Suddenly, a media that, over the years, has assumed the oil industry had the power to raise prices at will and was earning exorbitant profits (which has never been true) suddenly seems to believe that as goes big oil, so goes America. CNN.com has this story titled “Cheap Oil is Killing My Job” about job loss in the industry. Included in the article is this plea to readers: “Are you worried about losing your job because of the oil meltdown? Share your story with CNNMoney!” And back in November, when the price of gas was just beginning its fall, The Washington Post lead with the headline “Why $3.00 a gallon gas is a bad sign for the global economy.”


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What Does It Mean To Embrace Freedom?

The John Locke Foundation will focus on freedom as it monitors activity within the N.C. General The John Locke Foundation will focus on freedom as it monitors activity within the N.C. General Assembly in 2015. JLF Vice President for Outreach Becki Gray delivered that message Monday.

Gray recapped during a Shaftesbury Society speech the conservative and market-based reforms state lawmakers have pursued since Republicans took control of the state legislature in 2011. Gray also looked ahead to the new legislative session, which starts with an organizational session Wednesday.

In this video clip, Gray previews a new First in Freedom initiative, which will offer a “freedom test” lawmakers, voters, and taxpayers can use to determine whether new legislation makes sense for North Carolina.



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A Teachable Moment About The Value Of Competition

Content is king in the TV and movie world these days. As this piece details, more and more people expect to be able to access content quickly and cheaply. And that has more and people and businesses getting into the business of content. It’s a wonderful thing to see: competition and choice leads to more and more options and pressure on providers to follow through on promises.

Veteran industry analyst Gary Arlen says viewers are embracing the “any program, any platform, anytime” promise that media companies have been espousing for several years. Now comes the reality that audiences expect to find any show they want to see and the “frustration that it may not be so easy to find that promised array of content.”

Arlen’s perspective here is right on. He is reminded of the 1980s, when cable networks started to blossom and young audiences at the time did not recognize the difference between the free over-the-air broadcast channels and cable-only networks. “Today, the variety of streaming over-the-top programs that can be seen on the same flat panel, big-screen TV display that delivers traditional TV channels has blurred the distinction,” he says.

What consumers want and expect is for their needs to be met, and when it comes to TV/movie content, those needs are only partially being fulfilled. That’s an opportunity for providers.

Those of us who embrace freedom and free markets must find a way to help people understand that the same dynamics —  competition leading to more choices and better services — exists in OTHER areas of life as well, including the marketplace for health insurance and health care. Let’s hope that members of Congress jettison Obamacare and embrace competition and choice so that every person who wants insurance can find a plan tailored to his/her needs and cost considerations. Let’s jump in, just as we’ve jumped in to the TV/movie content marketplace.

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Time To Grab Some More ‘Free’ Stuff From The President

It’s amazing how much “free” stuff costs these days — so much so that President Obama declined to put a price tag on the “free” community college prize package he offered up this week to “anyone who’s willing to work for it.” Let’s see now. If someone is “willing to work for it,” how about saving the money earned while “working for it” and paying the tab for tuition? Evidently taking responsibility for one’s future doesn’t qualify as “working for it” when it comes to a leftists such as President Obama. 


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WSJ: IRS Considered Tax on Donations to Political Groups

Still question whether the IRS has been used to crack down on free speech rights of conservatives? From the Wall Street Journal:

Internal Revenue Service officials considered imposing a tax on large donations to many tax-exempt political organizations in 2011, recently released emails show, a move that could have disproportionately hurt conservative activists.

The discovery comes as part of Republican lawmakers’ broader investigation into the IRS’s treatment of conservative groups. It is further fueling GOP suspicions that some agency officials sought to suppress conservatives’ use of tax-exempt organizations for political speech.

The internal emails “demonstrate that the IRS sought to use the gift tax as one part of a larger effort to crack down on the political speech” of conservative tax-exempt groups, said Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The entire story is worth your time.

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Competition Would Put An End To This Issue

JLF’s Terry Stoops provides a thoughtful look at the debate over the new Advanced Placement U.S. History course, why there are concerns about what it doesn’t include and therefore what it teaches students, and why competition would put an end to this issue.

The problem is that high school students often do not appreciate the nuances of historical interpretation. Except in those rare instances when the instructor highlights those differences explicitly, students are likely to mistake historical interpretation for historical consensus. As a result, those who ask different questions about the past are considered outside of the “mainstream” and, in the eyes of students, should not be taken seriously. At this point, the process of inculcating our nation’s highest-performing students with a liberal worldview is well underway.

In the end, legitimate concerns with the ideological slant of the revised AP U.S. History course are a problem only because there is no apparent alternative to the College Board’s Advanced Placement monopoly. Simply put, no other company or organization offers AP-type courses. Even if they did, it would be difficult to convince colleges and universities to accept successful completion of them for credit.

If the College Board had to compete for students, it would feel compelled to create AP curricula and exams that were balanced in a way that appealed to key segments of their audience. In a competitive environment, high school students who objected to the content or ideology of an AP course would be able to enroll in a course (of equal rigor and for college credit) with an alternative provider. Until that competition exists, the College Board, like any other monopoly, will do whatever it chooses.

Without competition, the debate over the course is moot, unfortunately. Time for choice.

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Reformers Set The Pace For Job Growth

We are blessed to live in a state where courageous reformers have answered voters’ repeated calls for change. The reform agenda in North Carolina since 2011 has led to a historic transformation of our state, reversing decades of ill-conceived progressive policies. Government programs are being evaluated, spending and borrowing are being reined in, and taxpayers are being shown more respect.No longer is government growth accepted as natural and unavoidable. This change of course has ushered in an era of economic growth highlighted by job creation, lower unemployment, and expanding opportunity.

In today’s Daily Journal, JLF’s John Hood delves into economic data about job growth and compares our state to others.

From June 2011 to November 2014, North Carolina added about 286,000 net new jobs, a rate of employment growth of 7.3 percent. For comparison purposes, I assembled four potential regional groupings: the Census Bureau’s nine-state “South Atlantic” region stretching from Maryland to Florida; the Commerce Department’s 12-state “Southeast” region stretching from Virginia to Louisiana; the 11 states that made up the old Confederacy; and North Carolina plus our four immediate neighbors.

In each case, I produced a job-growth rate from mid-2011 to the present. In each case, it was lower than North Carolina’s. Employment rose by 5.7 percent in the South Atlantic region, 5.2 percent in the Southeast, 6 percent in the former Confederacy, and 6.1 percent in our immediate neighborhood.

Here’s what striking to me: these are all lower rates of job growth than the 6.2 percent rate experienced by the nation as a whole during the same period. Although many people continued to assume that the South has a relatively strong, fast-growing economy, that assumption is many years out of date. Plenty of states in the Midwest, Great Plains, Mountain West, and even the Northeast are now consistently outperforming the South.

Which Southern states are beating the regional spread? As I mentioned, North Carolina (+7.3 percent) is one of them. The labor market continues to sizzle in Texas (+11.2 percent) and Florida (+9.2 percent). Other good performers are South Carolina (+7.5 percent) and Georgia (+6.7 percent).

Hood concludes that as we enter 2015, our state’s reformers would be wise to branch out beyond our close neighbors for examples of economic policies that have led to enviable job growth and economic performance.

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Mark Steyn: “Free speech is in retreat around the world”

I love Mark Steyn’s writing. He is, of course, known for his biting wit, which is terrific and entertaining. But I also appreciate his intellect and writing style. In this piece, Steyn takes on the “Beverly Hills big shots” over their quick cave to threats over “The Interview.”

Free speech is in retreat around the world. Twenty-five years ago, through all the violent demonstrations and murders of associated figures, The Satanic Verses remained in print and in almost every bookstore. Were it a new book being pitched today, no publisher would take it. I see that, following the disappearance of The Interview, a Texan movie theater replaced it with a screening of Team America. That film wouldn’t get made today, either.

Hollywood has spent the 21st century retreating from storytelling into a glossy, expensive CGI playground in which nothing real is at stake. That’s all we’ll be getting from now on. Oh, and occasional Oscar bait about embattled screenwriters who stood up to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee six decades ago, even as their successors cave to, of all things, Kim’s UnKorean Activities Committee. American pop culture – supposedly the most powerful and influential force on the planet – has just surrendered to a one-man psycho-state economic basket-case that starves its own population.

Kim Jong-won.

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There Is Hope For Kids Who Need Our Help

Carolina Journal’s Dan Way reports on a development in education policy that offers hope for a better future for kids in areas of the state that, for now, have few education options.

Some state education officials are hoping that a plan approved by the State Board of Education and sent to a legislative committee for action will speed the process of letting high-performing charter schools replicate their success in underserved regions.

“This is literally an instance of let the market dictate the supply. My personal hope is that we will actually see replication in places where you don’t see an adequate supply of charter schools,” said Martez Hill, executive director of the State Board of Education.

“I have a hope and a desire to see this happen in eastern North Carolina, among other regions, Hill said.

“I would think we’ll probably see a variety of replication models that may just focus on a certain region, or may focus on certain types of students. We’re interested in all types of innovative possibilities,” Hill said.

The State Board of Education approved a report to the General Assembly at its Dec. 4 meeting advocating a fast-track charter school replication process for charter schools that can demonstrate three years of proven academic and financial success.

Let’s urge legislators to take a tangible step forward in bringing hope and opportunity to more North Carolina children.

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