When it became legal in 2010, one California school district east of Los Angeles--Riverside Unified School District (RUSD)--declared itself a "District of Choice" (DOC). This allowed children from other school districts to transfer to any RUSD school without approval from their home districts.
  • In 2010, 161 students moved to RUSD.
  • In 2012-2013, 395 additional students moved to RUSD.
  • In 2013-2014, 535 new students transferred to RUSD.

As reported by Education Next, students have flocked to RUSD. DOC was designed to encourage competition among school districts, allowing them to offer unique programs that could better fit each child's needs. The idea was that schools would  improve their own programs and develop new ones to retain and attract students.

What makes RUSD so attractive? It boasts a new science and technology middle school, a dual-language immersion elementary school, and an all-digital high school. RUSD also boasts an arts-centered grade school and a virtual school for third graders and above.

DOCs in California are not required to notify the state that they have become DOCs, so the state doesn't officially track them. However, a principal in the Oak Park Unified School District, Jon Duim, tracked the numbers as part of his 2013 dissertation at the University of Southern California. His findings:
  • 31 districts participate in Districts of Choice.
  • Those districts had higher scores on California's Academic Performance Index than the state overall, scoring 833 compared to 788.

Duim's study adds evidence--not conclusive evidence or "proof"--to support the argument that being "pro-choice"--when it comes to public schooling--benefits students. Yet, most states erect barriers (e.g., requiring district approval for interdistrict transfers) and that approval has been increasingly difficult to secure. Some school districts, facing tight budgets and enrollment losses, are reluctant to approve transfers. Why? The $$$s follow the students.


For anyone who wants true authentic reform--real hope and change not the hopium and changium that's promised by those whose lives are dependent by preserving the public school establishment--that's exactly what should be happening nationally...for in the best interests of the students and the nation.


Let the discussion begin...




To read the Education Next article, click on the following link:
"California's Districts of Choice."

 
 
While derided by Obamacare supporters as a healthcare option that's reserved to the 1%, "concierge care"--immediate, quality and personal care for the patient--can be much cheaper for all but the sickest of patients than Obamacare's cheapest plan--the "Bronze Plan"--which runs about $250/month (not including copays).

All it takes is a little entrepreneurial spirit that's aimed at driving down one of the largest costs of health insurance: The cost of filing insurance claims for primary care.

The President and Co-Founder of Epiphany Health, Dr. Lee Gross, observed that "about 90% of what most patients need can be accomplished at primary care." Noticing his Medicaid patients--the 99%--all seemed to have iPhones, Dr. Gross devised a concierge plan to treat such individuals for the same cost as monthly cell service. Here's how it works:
  • The patient pays a flat monthly fee to the doctor to cover primary care ($83/individual, $152/couple, and $49/dependent child). The patient has access to 25 office visits/year.
  • All primary care needs are covered, from physicals to mammograms to prostate screenings to routine labs and vaccines.
  • All patients receive a metabolic panel with a complete blood count, lipid test, and thyroid panel. These tests cost uninsured patients $500, but Dr. Gross' concierge model provides the testing at no extra cost. For example, one patient received a quote of $1.8k for blood tests from her doctor. Under Dr. Gross' concierge plan, she paid $85 in out-of-pocket costs.
  • Imaging services are also much less expensive. Dr. Gross' patients pay $200 for a spinal MRI and $175 for a CT head scan.
  • Patients can also purchase a catastrophic insurance plan with a high deductible for just $100/month.

Dr. Gross is offering the 99% a healthcare reform that frees them from bondage to the Leviathan of Obamacare.


Let the discussion begin...




To read about Dr. Gross' concierge practice for the 99%, click on the following link:
"Concierge Care for the Little Guy"

 
 
New data confirm what many have known for quite a while: There is no positive correlation between the amount a state spends on education and student achievement at the end of high school. Since 1970, the performance of students on standardized achievement tests has remained stagnant despite spending 300% more on K-12 education.

In a study conducted by the Director of the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom, Andrew Coulson, state SAT score averages were examined and then adjusted by participation rate and student demographics (i.e., the factors known to affect achievement outcomes). Coulson then compared the results with recent state-level National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, producing SAT score trends from 1972 to present day.

Coulson's findings:
  • In all 50 states, the correlation between spending and academic performance was 0.075. Any corrleation below 0.3 or 0.4 is considered a very weak, indicating no relationship between education spending and student achievement at the end of high school.
  • Furthermore, while spending has increased, performance has stagnated or declined. And, states that have cut spending substantially over certain periods have demonstrated no declines in SAT scores.

In sum: Academic performance and test scores across the 50 states appear to have zero relationship to the amount of state education funding.

Something else hasn't changed since 1970: The "true believers"--the teachers' unions and state education establishments--continue to argue that pouring more money into K-12 education will improve learning outcomes. The true believers, of course, blame the tests.

How about blaming parents and taxpayers for putting up with this for 40 years? All of that money and they should be content with these achievement outcomes?


Let the discussion begin...




To read Andrew Coulson's study, click on the following link:
"State Education Trends."

 
 
Consider some of these statistics:
  • 27% of Americans live today in a one-person household;
  • 44% of Americans sleep with their phones and 58% prefer sleeping with their pets, but only 20% of them can’t imagine their lives without sex;
  • lipstick sales and hemline lengths accurately measure the strength of US economy; and,
  • FEMA uses Waffle House menu and opening hours to estimate how bad a situation is after a storm. 

David Adelman has compiled these and other statistics after reading an anthropological study, "The Weirdest People in the World," which rebuts the traditional hypothesis that all humans have similar psychological traits. As it turns out, Americans are different--the researchers labeled Americans as "weird" meaning "different"--from other homo sapiens.

Adelman then used the most recent scientific studies to identify the "weird" habits of Americans, listed on the infographic below. Though, powerful and proud, Adelman believes America, has may of its idiosyncratic oddities and quirks.

Better yet, The Motley Monk would observe, these data may explain why Americans believe other people are "weird."

To access "The Weirdest People in the World," click on the following link:
http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~henrich/pdfs/Weird_People_BBS_final02.pdf



To access David Alelman's infographic, click on the following link:http://comparisons.financesonline.com/comparison-of-americans-weird-habits/
 
 
God shows us a humble victory which humanly seems a failure. We can say that God conquers in failure! When all seems lost, it is then that God intervenes with the power of the Resurrection.” 
                 - Pope Francis
                   Good Friday 2014
 
 
"Say it enough, have enough people say it, and before long, it'll be thought to be the truth."

That's an old advertising maxim, one that seems to be very much alive and well in the Obama White House when it comes to the myth that women earn on average .77 cents for every $1.00 that men earn.

In one sense, those folks in the Obama White House are correct. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, "Highlights of Women's Earnings in 2012," indicates that full-time wage and salaried female workers had median weekly earnings of $691, compared to male median earnings of $854. That's about 19% less, pretty close to the .77/$1.00 assertion.

However, research conducted by Andrew Biggs and Mark Perry indicates that those folks in the Obama White House have "cherry picked" data from the BLS report to perpetuate the myth. It all has to do with the comparison of "full-time" workers. That's faulty in that what qualifies as "full-time" varies. It's sort of like comparing apples to oranges. To wit:
  • Men were nearly 200% more likely to work 40+ hours/week than women. Women were almost 200% more likely to work 35 to 39 hours/week. Yet, those differences were treated as differences.
  • Were those folks in the Obama White House to take these data into account would shrinks the pay gap. How much? Women working 40+ hour weeks (not 35 to 39 hour weeks) earned 88% of male earnings.

Hmmmmm...something's just not right here.

Marriage and children make the comparison even more faulty. To wit:
  • Mothers oftentimes leave the labor market to have children. When when they return, they have less work experience than men of their age. Less experience equals less pay.
  • Working mothers generally seek more flexibility in their jobs than men. That flexibility equals less pays.
  • But, in 2012, single, never-married women earned 96% of men's earnings.

Hmmmmm...something's really not right here.

Then, there's some other demographic facts making the comparison yet even more faulty. To wit:
  • In college, women tend to major in fields in college that pay less in the labor market.
  • Men are 400% more likely than women to negotiate their salaries in the job market.
  • Men constitute the majority of the employees in the most dangerous jobs, such as logging. In 2012, for example, 92% of work-related deaths were male deaths. These risky, dangerous jobs pay high salaries in order to attract workers. Men tend to flock to these jobs.
  • Men are also more likely to pursue occupations with risky compensation packages, such as finance. To compensate for the risk, the average pay in those jobs tends to be higher.

The "take away"? Those people in the Obama White House cherry picked BLS data in order to perpetuate a myth in hopes that people will believe it. Why? Could it be they want to pit the two genders against one another? "Gender politics" it's called.

Perry and Biggs argue that the data indicate that discrimination isn't producing the pay gap. They suggest examining labor market incentives to get a sense of how mythical the assertion really is. If it is true that women are paid 77 cents on the dollar, then any business looking to maximize its profits would cut its labor costs by replacing its male workers with female workers.

Why are businesses ignoring this opportunity?

Because it doesn't exist.


Let the discussion begin...





To read Perry and Biggs' article, click on the following link:
"The '77 Cents on the Dollar' Myth About Women's Pay."

 
 
If the "War on Poverty" that President Johnson declared in 1965 was successful, then it would seem logical nearly 50 years later that today's poverty rate would be lower than what it was in 1965. Yet, the simple fact is that the poverty rate in 2014 is virtually the identical to 1965.

Peter Ferrara has conducted a study in which he identifies three demographic factors that have contributed to today's high poverty rate:

  1. Lower income populations have stopped working: In 1960, nearly 67% of households in the bottom income quintile were headed by working persons. In 1991, 33% of households in the bottom quintile were headed by working persons with only 11% working full time, year round. Today, on 2.7% of Americans working full time and year round live in poverty.
  2. The "poverty trap" encourages welfare dependency: When those who live in poverty enter the workforce, they are now subject to taxes on their rising income.
  3. The breakup of the nuclear family: Female-headed households with children have a poverty rate of 44.5%. Married couples with children have a poverty rate of 7.8 %.

What can be done? Ferrara suggests using a "work safety net" approach that reforms all federal programs by making them block grants, like those used in President Clinton's 1996 welfare reforms. Here's how this approach would work:
  • Welfare administrators, charities, local business groups, and churches would be responsible for organizing local employers to offer private, minimum-wage job opportunities.
  • Every able-bodied American who shows up at the local welfare office would be guaranteed a minimum-wage work assignment for a full day's work.
  • Those who live in poverty would be incentivized to take these jobs because they could not receive federal benefits otherwise.
  • This approach would eliminate the poverty trap, as increasing income would not reduce benefits. Eventually, these temporary, minimum-wage jobs could lead to permanent employment and associated wage gains, as workers would gain skills and experience, and as new work opportunities become available.

The current federal minimum wage, plus the Earned Income Tax Credit, plus the child tax credit add up to more than the poverty line for every possible family combination in the United States. Viewed in this way, the "work safety net" approach has the potential to eliminate poverty completely in the United States.


Let the discussion begin...





To read Peter Ferrara's study, click on the following link:
"Liberating the Poor from Poverty."
 
 
When then-Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) first ran for President, he promised that he'd remake the federal government so that it would become "leaner" and "meaner" so as to meet 21st century challenges.  It was all part of the candidate's "Hope and Change" agenda.

Well, it's been six years now and it's possible to assess how well President Obama has been in achieving his goal of reforming the federal government.

A USA Today article reports a Government Accountability Office (GAO) analysis which reveals how much duplication exists within the federal government's programs. For example:
  • AIDs programs for minority communities involve 10 different federal offices.
  • Autism research involves 11 agencies.
  • Eight agencies in the Department of Defense are searching for prisoners of war and Americans missing in action.
  • Eight different satellite control centers are used at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado to control 10 satellite programs.

Beginning in 2008 and ending in 2012, the GAO has identified 162 federal programs marked by fragmentation, duplication, overlap, and inefficiency. In 2013, the GAO added 26 new programs.

In fairness, the U.S. Comptroller General, Gene Dodaro, has reported that the Obama administration has "at least partially implemented" 83% of his agency's recommendations. That's much better than Congress, which has taken up only 52% of his agency's recommendations.

Of course, the bureaucrats--whether in the executive or legislative branch of the federal government--don't believe all duplication is "waste." Conceding that point, The Motley Monk is willing to accept some triplication and, perhaps, even some quadruplication.

But, decication?

Get a load of this: The management of autism research across 11 agencies is necessary. Why? The Department of Health and Human Services believes that multidisciplinary research is often required.

So much for "leaner" and "meaner." The size and cost of the federal government has grown exponentially during the past six years. All of that "Hopium and Changium"--insofar as it concerns the federal government--was nothing but a bunch of malarkey.

The same goes for meeting the challenges of the 21st century. Unless, of course, what President Obama really meant was lowering the nation's unemployment rate by having the federal government hire more personnel to staff all of those positions.


Let the discussion begin...





To read the USA Today article, click on the following link:
"Government Often Has 10 Agencies Doing One Job."

 
 
The Director of the "Copenhagen Consensus Center," Bjørn Lomborg, claims that wasted green energy $$$s (aka, "investments") disproportionately hurt the poor.

The root of the problem is that everyone is paying more for energy, due to green energy subsidies. The magnitude of those subsidies?
  • In 2012, governments subsidized solar and wind power with $60B. The total benefit to the climate was $1.4B. That's $58.6B wasted.
  • Another $19 subsidized biofuels. Zero benefit to the climate.

Just last year alone, that's a total of $77.6B wasted.



But, "It's a beginning," say those who worship at the altar of environmentalism. Beginning in 2020 and until 2100, the European Union plans to spend $280B/year to implement its climate policy.

That's to say nothing about how the 1% are the winners in this "Go for the Green Lotto," leaving the other 99% holding the bag.

Consider the United Kingdom:
  • Thanks to the green energy policies, electricity consumption since 2005 has dropped by almost 10% on the averageThe poor have reduced their consumption by much more than that 10% because the rich have not reduced their consumption at all.
  • Renewable energy sources--consider the government subsidies they receive to prop themselves up--have caused energy prices to rise by 50%.Today, it costs 63% more to heat a home than 5 years ago. Concurrently, wages have declined due to global economic decline.

In Germany:
  • The wealthy receive generous government subsidies if they install solar panels on their homes. Yes, the poor can receive the same subsidies. But, they are forced to pay the higher electricity costs.  That is, if the poor can afford to install solar panels, assuming the poor can afford to own a home.

In developing nations:
  • 3.5M people die each year from indoor air pollution caused by renewable energy: burning twigs and dung inside homes to keep warm. Electricity from coal-fired power plants would solve this problem, but Western countries--like the United States--have opposed funding coal power projects. With 50% of Africa's power coming from renewables, the poor are frozen out of the market.

But, in China:
  • Coal power has fueled economic expansion since 1971 to lift 680M people out of poverty. In 1971, 40% of China's energy came from renewables. But, in 2013, China generated only 0.23% of its energy from renewable sources, namely, wind and solar power.

In sum, it takes $500 in renewable energy subsidies to raise 1 person from poverty. But, gas-generated electricity can lift 4+ people from poverty.

Those are the facts from the Director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center. The implication is clear: Renewable energy hurts the poor.

Since when have the facts ever mattered to those who worship at the altar of environmentalism? They aren't much interested in achieving consensus.


Let the discussion begin...




To read Bjørn Lomborg's study, click on the following link:
"The Poverty of Renewables."
 
 
If there were 7.1M people who signed up for Obamacare by the March 31st deadline, information about those people is only now beginning to trickle out. The news isn't good for middle-class taxpayers.

According to a FOX Business report, most of those who signed up for Obamacare are contributing to a "death spiral" in the healthcare insurance industry that will leave middle-class taxpayers on the hook.

How so? Those who signed up--however many there really were--were sicker and older than the average demographic used by Obamacare planners to demonstrate its viability.

Recent data from Express Scripts--a pharmacy benefit management service--indicates that:
  • 6 of the top 10 costliest medications ACA enrollees used were specialty drugs, compared to only 4 of the 10 most expensive medications used by patients in commercial plans;
  • enrollees used 35% more pain medication when compared to commercial plans;
  • enrollees used 14% more antidepressant medication than in commercial plans;
  • 6+ of every 1k prescriptions written for Obamacare patients were for HIV medications, 400% more than commercial health plans.

Interestingly, the proportion of contraceptives among Obamacare enrollees was 31% lower. Remember Sandra Fluke? Wasn't Obamacare sold on the premise that every American woman would have free contraceptives and abortion services?


Yes, that is true. But, at the same time, those data provide insight into who's really signing up: The sick and elderly, not the "young invincibles" (18 to 34 years of age) who were are supposed to pay healthcare premiums that would make Obamacare work. If data reported by the Department of Health and Human Services are to be believed, 25% of the 4.2 million enrollees who signed up during the second half of the enrollment period which expired on March 31 were young invincibles. That's not nearly enough to make Obamacare work.

To no one's surprise, insurers and policy experts are now predicting double-digit healthcare insurance premium hikes in 2015, which will incentivize more people to sign up for Obamacare. In turn, the U.S. healthcare insurance industry will continue along its death spiral until a single-payer system (read: "government monopoly") takes over. Then, it will be the average taxpayer will will pay for that unresponsive, socialist, and bureaucratic behemoth.

But, wasn't that President Obama's goal from the beginning?


Let the discussion begin...




To read the FOX Business report, click on the following link:
"Report: Early ACA Enrollees Were Sicker Than Average."