Suddenly America is facing a severe structural labor shortage. We all feel it, whether we’re trying for reservations at a restaurant that has reduced hours, seeking handyman help, or just trying to get somebody to answer the dang phone.
Nurses and teachers are in short supply. Employers report at least two job openings for each job seeker. Beyond personal inconvenience, when workers produce fewer services and goods for dollars to chase, prices go up and inflation results.
You can partly blame it on COVID. Politicians shut down much of the economy, then shoved trillions of dollars in “COVID relief funds” to those forced not to work.
Unfortunately, the spigot was never fully closed, and many Americans found that sleeping in agreed with them. Europe, Canada, and Japan all rebounded while the U.S. was left with about one million fewer workers.
Adding to the problem, the youth anti-work movement continues to grow. Work is for suckers and victims. Social media outlets praise workers for quitting their jobs. Others are lionized for being “quiet quitters,” idlers who do the least work possible while still collecting a paycheck.
The inspiration for the anti-work cult traces back to the Marxist anti-capitalist movement, a long-time foe of the American work tradition. Their thesis is that capitalist employment is exploitive and therefore, not working is virtuous.
It coincidentally turns out that, for many Americans, government policy has significantly disincentivized work. And for these people, working harder is no longer the way to get ahead.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Phil Gramm and John Early explain how this effect is commonly underestimated because of the way income is reported by the federal government. The Census Bureau, inexplicably, does not treat most transfer payments as income.
That’s important because government transfer payments to the bottom 20% of households, income-wise, ballooned by 269% between 1967 and 2017 while the middle 20% realized only a 154% increase in their after tax income.
The results were staggering. In 2017, the bottom 20% of households had $6,941 in “income” and only 36% of working age people actually worked. However, after the transfer payments and taxes are included, as they should be, their total income was $48,806.
The second to the bottom quintile had 85% employment and an average total income of $50,492, actually less than a $2,000 difference from the lowest group. The middle quintile was 92% employed and earned $66,453, but after taxes and transfers that shrank to $61,350, merely 26% more than the bottom quintile.
But wait, there’s more. Family units are smaller in the lowest quintile than the others. Per capita, the adjusted net income was actually $33,653 in the lowest quintile, $29,497 in the next lowest, and $32,754 in the middle.
Sorry for all the numbers, but they tell an important story. For 60% of Americans, working much harder and even earning more money produced a negligible net benefit. Means-tested government programs were just as lucrative. It’s not hard to understand why the percentage of working age people in the lowest quintile who were employed fell from 68% in 1967 to 36% in 2017.
Policymakers seem to believe that incentives don’t matter, but they do. People who choose not to work and live off the labor of others earn some understandable resentment, but they’re not acting irrationally under the circumstance. The heart of the problem is their enablers in Big Government who, for their own political purposes, created this perverse system.
It’s often forgotten that in the 1990s, governments established work requirements for many means-tested benefits. “Workfare” was a generational policy success. In spite of hysterical warnings that “children would starve in the streets,” poverty rates dropped as employment increased.
Unfortunately, the advocates for workfare declared victory and moved on. But welfare bureaucrats stayed put, patiently reestablishing their vision of welfare without requirements. So now poverty is supported rather than reduced. And Arizona was among the states that quietly removed the work requirements for Medicaid and other welfare programs.
But government handouts that replace labor don’t work. They erode self-reliance, worker pride, and self-sufficiency. They threaten our shared prosperity. And most of all, they undermine American values.
Dr. Thomas Patterson, former Chairman of the Goldwater Institute, is a retired emergency physician. He served as an Arizona State senator for 10 years in the 1990s, and as Majority Leader from 93-96. He is the author of Arizona’s original charter schools bill.
If you’re confused about the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program expansion to all Arizona K-12 students, you’re not alone. The recent passing of HB 2853, gives parents and guardians who opt out of the public-school option, a portion of taxpayer funds to use for tutoring, private school tuition, home schooling, and special-needs therapies. Much of the confusion comes from advocates for and against this expansion by complicating the issue with opposing scenarios.
I believe both sides of the debate must begin under the auspices of Arizona law. Specifically, the Parents’ Bill of Rights, which states: “All parental rights are reserved to a parent of a minor child without obstruction or interference from this state, including the right to direct the education, upbringing, moral or religious training and make all health care decisions for their minor child.”
Opponents to Arizona’s ESA program expansion, like Save Our Schools and teachers’ unions, who have tried and failed to get enough signatures to stop HB 2853, feel parents are unqualified and can’t be trusted with these taxpayer funds to direct the education of their children. The Democrats of Greater Tucson take that mistrust of parents to a heinous level in a recent post. They write “With no accountability protocols, this creates an opportunity for extremist-xenophobic-homophobic-white nationalist-MAGA groups to develop their own little Hitler Youth Academies to indoctrinate impressionable minors.” The four false cheering points of the anti-ESA crowd can be easily debunked with facts:
ESAs don’t siphon funds away from public schools: The inconvenient truth as explained by the Goldwater Institute is the “ESA program now gives back nearly $1,000 per child to the public school system each time a student switches to an ESA from a public school. This is because ESA students forfeit their funding from several pots of state taxpayer funded money (such as the ‘Classroom Site Fund’ and ‘Prop 123’ add-on revenues) when they leave their district or charter school, and all of that money gets redistributed back to the public school system instead. (For instance, for the 2022-2023 school year alone, the Classroom Site Fund raised $945 million dollars, with every one of Arizona’s 1.1 million public school students getting almost $900 each from it. ESA students, on the other hand, completely give up their claim to those dollars and instead send them back to their public-school peers, who end up with more money per pupil than they had before.” Read more here.
ESAs do have monetary accountability and transparency: According to the Arizona Department of Education’s 2022/2023 ESA Handbook, when an Account Holder enters into an ESA contract with the Department, the Account Holder is required to report all expenses made with ESA funds. To maintain ESA program eligibility, debit card receipts must be submitted in the quarter that the transaction occurred. Complete invoices or receipts must be included when submitting expenses or making payments in the “Class Wallet” platform. All required credentials must be included when submitting debit card receipts or reimbursements.
Parents can’t spend the ESA money on anything they want: The Arizona Department of Education’s 2022/2023 ESA Handbook is quite clear on their “Spending and Program Requirements” in Chapter 2. There are twenty-one out of seventy pages in this handbook explaining what is approved and unapproved spending. For instance, if your child needs a computer for online classes, you would think that is an approved expenditure, but it’s not.
ESAs have academic accountability and transparency: I find the teachers’ union claim to the contrary laughable after the Arizona Department of Education’s recent release of the state’s assessment data. Overall, only 41% of students passed the English component, and a mere 33% passed the math portion. Where is the accountability for this disaster?
The biggest inconvenient truth is that home-schooled and private school students outperform public school students on state standardized tests and college entrance exams. As the number of homeschooled children in the United States grows, the statistics of student outcome cannot be ignored. According to Think Impact, homeschooled students score between 80% and 90% regardless of their parents’ level of education. On average, homeschooling one child costs the parent(s) between $700 and $1,800.
Business Wire, a Berkshire Hathaway company, reports a Back to School Survey shows 47% of parents are considering dropping school and going to homeschooling. Results from the EdChoice survey in 2020 showed that the top reasons parents had considered homeschooling before the COVID-19 shut down included freedom in exploring their child’s interests; safety concerns about schools; schools did not meet the needs of the children; and parents wanted to mold their children as per their own practices and beliefs.
Our education system has become a bloated, bureaucratic mess that is desperately trying to hang on to power over our children that is not legally theirs to have. Schools have one job, and that is to give our children a great academic education and they are failing. Compared to other nations, the United States fell to 24th in high school literacy in 2012 and continues to decline.
Parents, guardians, and concerned citizens are on the front lines, exposing the inconvenient truths regarding problems in our schools. We need to give them our support. I don’t believe the teachers’ unions, Save Our Schools, and their media cohorts are going to give up after their first defeat to stop ESA expansion.
Please contact your state representatives and tell them to uphold Arizona law which gives our parents the right to direct the education of their children.
Michele Hamer is a candidate for the Prescott Unified School District Governing Board. You can find out more about her campaign here.
What’s the difference between 141,714 and 88,866? Take a few seconds to do the math, and feel free to use a calculator if you’d like.
If you answered 52,848, you’re correct! Congratulations and give yourself a pat on the back because your math skills are far superior to those of Save Our Schools (SOS) and the rest of Arizona’s teachers’ unions.
On Friday, SOS Executive Director Beth Lewis boldly proclaimed—with all the confidence in the world—that the wall of boxes she was standing in front of contained the signatures of 141,714 Arizona voters who supported a ballot initiative aimed at overturning universal Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) in Arizona. She was giddy. Her supporters cheered. SOS declared blocking universal school choice for all a “historic victory.” And corporate media jumped on the opportunity to push their narrative, accepting everything SOS said at face value.
But there was a problem. And that’s where simple math comes into play…
Public education funding accounts for nearly $11 billion of Arizona’s $18 billion state budget. Considering this cost, taxpayers should have a clear perception about the return on this massive investment.
We can define the purpose of public education as the process of producing capable adults who can effectively participate in the economic activity of the community. This puts the focus on developing students who can be productive after they leave our public education system and identifies the return on investment for substantial state spending.
The economic benefit of Career and Technical Education (CTE) should then become the primary objective of each public education institution that is funded by the taxpayers of the state. The goal of CTE should be the attainment of professional degrees and technical certificates that demonstrate proficiency in various career-related specialties that allow students to attain beneficial employment.
There are several public education institutions that share the responsibility for preparing our students to be productive adults.
1. Pre-K-12 District and Charter Public Schools
District Schools: Mesa Unified, Chandler Unified, and Tucson Unified are the largest in the state.
Charter Schools: American Leadership Academy, Legacy Traditional, Archway (Great Hearts)
Maricopa Community Colleges and Pima Community Colleges are the largest.
3. Technical Schools
East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT), West Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC), and Pima County Joint Technical Education District (Pima-JTED) are the largest.
4. Colleges and Universities
Arizona State University, University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University are the three public universities.
Coordination and Collaboration
Students often use several of these institutions in their educational journey but many of the programs overlap in their requirements. However, many students have also found that their credits earned by completing courses in one institution are not readily transferable to another institution, resulting in a student having to repeat classes they have already passed. This unnecessarily delays their attainment of educational goals and adds additional costs.
There does not appear to be any good reason for this uncoordinated approach to public education. It also serves to harm students and discourage their educational progress.
While some institutions do attempt to collaborate for the better benefit of students, the effort is spotty and uncoordinated. In a recent presentation to the EVIT Board of Directors, Chief Academic Officer Ronda Doolen demonstrated the chaotic approach to the transfer of credits from one institution to another. There is clearly no consistency and no universal process for doing so leaving students, as the clients of the system, to be served poorly.
Universal Portability, Student-Centric Education
One solution is to have state level certifications for certain classes that can be applied to each student’s education transcript and universally accepted by any public education institution in the state. This makes a student’s academic achievements “portable” and shifts the focus from “institution-centric” to “student–centric” in order to better benefit students.
One current model is the Dual-Credit platforms that are now in place between some high schools and local community colleges. However, the programs are usually governed by specific Inter-Governmental Agreements (IGAs) at the school or district level. But the programs are typically difficult to navigate and there is no guarantee of universal acceptance of credits that can be applied at any Arizona public school.
An example would be a basic college level English course (“English 101”) that can be universally accredited as fulfilling any higher education requirement. However, this basic course typically has different course titles depending on the institution and may or may not be accepted at a community college or one of the Arizona universities—depending on the whims of that particular institution. This basic course should have one course title, one course number, and one course description in use by every public education institution in the state of Arizona and be fully portable between them.
Other courses that should have universal accreditation would be Basic History, Civics, Basic Math and Science Courses, Basic Arts and Humanities courses, and Foreign Languages. It would be far more efficient and far less costly to have these courses taken at accredited high school or community college institutions instead of at the university level.
Follow the Money, Institutional Self-Interest, and Territorialism
Many of the roadblocks to a more efficient and service-oriented approach to public education revolve around funding. However, we must first recognize that most education funding is ultimately derived from taxpayers. These taxpayers do not typically have much of an interest as to which institution receives their tax dollars as compared to their more beneficial interest that their funds are spent efficiently and not wasted on ineffective or duplicative efforts.
Unfortunately, there is an institutional self-interest in how funds are allocated to them by the state. No one wants to have their budget cut. This can lead to a bias in how universal course credits are supported that can run counter to the best interests of students, for whom these institutions were originally created to serve.
An example would be that there is little practical justification for our universities to offer general education courses that are also taught at community colleges, and some high schools, at a fraction of the cost to students and taxpayers. Wouldn’t it far more useful to have highly paid university professors spending their time teaching advanced courses that could only be offered at the university?
There does not seem to be any evidence that an English 101 course better serves a student if it is taken at a university as compared to a community college or even a good high school. This one single reform should significantly reduce the cost of education for students and their parents, who help pay their tuition, even though it may threaten the territory of certain institutional “empires” that have built up at taxpayer expense.
Re-thinking Public Education, Some Conclusions
The goal of public education should be to develop productive adults.
Public education should then be more focused on Career and Technical Education in order to have real value for students and the community.
Public education must be re-oriented to be “student-centric” and less institution-centric” to be more efficient and cost effective.
Course credits in higher education should be “portable” and universally accepted by all taxpayer-funded public education institutions.
Kurt Rohrs is a candidate for the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board. You can find out more about his campaign here.
Save Our Schools Arizona is clearly frustrated in its mission to stop families from having the freedom of school choice. For a few months now, the group has been gathering signatures throughout Arizona for a ballot initiative aimed at overturning universal Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA). You know…the law that was passed this summer to ensure every child gets the education they deserve. The one that even some Democrats and prominent black leaders like Pastor Drew Anderson fought for. The law that actually saves taxpayers moneyand was so popular that its launch overwhelmed the Arizona Department of Education’s website!
Are you considering voting for a Democrat, or not voting for a Republican because you think they’re crazy?
If you’re someone who votes according to the “candidate I like,” rather than the political party, consider what RESULTS your vote will bring to America, Arizona, and your family. A candidate’s likability and respectfulness mean nothing if their actions bring destruction.
You may like a Democrat as a person, and they may seem “reasonable” compared to the Republican alternative, but gone are the days when you could assume both parties have the same goals for America with different ideas to achieve them. Today’s Democrats have the opposite vision for America than Constitutional Republicans.
What is your vision for America, for your everyday life, for your family’s well-being? Don’t give your vote to a politician who will dismantle and eventually destroy your vision. Check the voting record and statements of ANY Democrat. (I’m not saying every Republican is wonderful; only that they will at least do far less damage than any Democrat.) Think I’m exaggerating? Look at what Democrat ideas have done to your daily reality:
THIS is what EVERY Democrat represents—no matter how “reasonable” a person they seem to be. Just look at the results of President Biden, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and virtually every Democrat in power—including every Congressperson. And don’t forget about Mark Kelly who ran as a moderate but votes 94% of the time with Democrats. Mark Kelly = Joe Biden. Katie Hobbs = woke insanity.
This is a different America than we had 20, 10, or even 1 year ago. And the main reason is a Leftist “long march through the institutions,” (Christopher Rufo) and a long strategy grounded in communism and socialism which has overtaken the Democrat party, big business, education, culture, law, and even medicine. Think about it. This is not the America we could have imagined even a few years ago.
“A disastrous and shaming flight from Afghanistan is described by President Joe Biden as ‘a triumphant success,’ while Dr. Anthony Fauci retires with dignity after doing terrible damage to the country with his nonsense about shutting schools, ‘droplets,’ the ups and downs of masking, the ‘abolition of hand-shakes’—almost all of it now thoroughly discredited.
Six years ago, no one could have imagined that these outrages would have occurred, much less that they would be accepted by a bedraggled, degraded, demoralized United States, its federal government in the hands of lawless and authoritarian myth-makers, applauded by the complicit national political media. Can this be America?”
What will your kids and grandkids experience if we keep putting Democrats in power?
It will only get worse.
That’s why a return to Constitutional Americanism is the only way to restore sanity, dignity, productivity, and hope to America.
And the surest way there is to elect Republicans (no matter how flawed one may be) to replace the destructive RESULTS of Democrats (no matter how nice one may seem).
Kim Miller is the President and Founder of Arizona Women of Action. You can find out more about their work here.