The Record Blog

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

National School Choice Week

[ Patrick Tuohey ]

Last week was National School Choice Week, and in Kansas City there was a rally in favor of school choice at Union Station. Most of this debate is, pardon the pun, academic because people with means already have school choice. In Kansas City, families have fled the school district or opted to spend the extra money on parochial schools. But not everyone can afford those choices, and so they are forced to remain in the worst schoool district in the United states.

Amy Hawley of KSHB TV filed this report on the event and the reality of school choice in Kansas City.

James Shuls of the Show-Me Institute is featured in the video and has written here and elsewhere on the need for education reform. His articles for The Missouri Record include:


2/5/2013 9:09:22 AM

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Monday, January 28, 2013

The State of Missouri Democrats

[ Patrick Tuohey ]

As Gov. Jay Nixon delivers the State of the State speech tonight, it is worth considering the state of his Democratic Party. The Democrat's terrible, horrible, no good very bad week is a good place to start.

Starting with the governor himself, Nixon bought a new airplane. Republicans were upset at the expenditure, naturally, but even newspapers and some Democrats voiced their displeasure. Democratic Representative Chris Kelly chimed in, saying, "Does the governor abuse the airplane situation? Clearly, yes."

One of Kelly's Democratic colleagues, Rep. Penny Hubbard, was stripped of all her committee assignments by House Minority Leader Jake Hummel because she didn't tow the Party line on a vote. She has since been named to lead some committees by Speaker Jones, a Republican. According to the Post-Dispatch:

Hummel said Jones decision to set up new committees makes a “mockery of the House rules” because the minority leader is supposed to be able to select Democrats for committees. Meanwhile, the issue can be seen as a win-win for Jones, who got the Democratic vote he needed from Hubbard and managed to protect her from caucus retaliation.

And in the race to replace US Rep Jo Anne Emerson, Democrats have decided to eschew a transparent and public campaign by choosing their candidate at a private forum.

It's been said that university politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small. This may be true of internal Democratic politics in Missouri where their power is ever shrinking. Republicans hold veto-proof majorities in both houses of the General Assembly (holding 24 of 32 Senate seats) and the 8th District is surely to go for the Republican candidate, whoever it is.

Stories of lavish spending, palace intrigue and closed door meetings suggests that Democrats have given up on growing the party and are instead just interested in preserving their own (dwindling) power.

1/28/2013 8:31:12 AM

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Death Penalty Shenanigans

[ Patrick Tuohey ]

We were glad to learn that the Missouri Senate is considering a study of capital punishment from a cost perspective, but it reminded us that most examinations of the death penalty concede too much legitimacy to the practice. For example, last year the Missouri Supreme Court put on hold the executions of six men on death row over concerns that the sedative to be administered to them amounts to "cruel and unusual punishment."

According to The Wall Street Journal,

Rick Sindel, a lawyer for some of the inmates involved in the lawsuit, said the court’s ruling on Tuesday “gives us the time to put before the court the evidence we think is necessary to make a decision about whether this protocol is constitutional.”

Mr. Sindel said the drug propofol “has a fairly significant history of causing pretty bad pain upon injection.” The drug was made famous for its role in the death of Michael Jackson in 2009.

Arguments about propofol are likely legal shenanigans put forth by those opposed to capital punishment regardless of how the sentence is administered. This is a shame, because in the interim they concede the larger argument in order to quibble over details. With all due respect to Missouri Senators seeking to consider its cost effectiveness—it misses the point.

This column has argued repeatedly that most arguments in opposition to capital punishment are completely facile. The practice is constitutional, neither cruel nor unusual, does not conflict with individual repentance and is applied sparingly. It is also wrong.

Opponents to the death penalty ought to own up to their principled views and lay aside the small potato arguments they make on each issue. As we wrote in January 2010,

The problem with capital punishment is that it is one more event in which the state places its prerogatives over the rights of an individual.

If conservatives believe government should be trusted with the power to kill us, how can they credibly argue against government power in significantly lesser matters such as health care and taxation?

Conservatives are completely comfortable arguing that the individual right to life is inviolable regardless of cost, utility, health or stage. Their argument only gains strength by recognizing that the right is also protected against one's own crimes.

1/25/2013 9:23:28 AM

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Nixon's Plane Truth

[ Patrick Tuohey ]

Governor Jay Nixon—we are not making this up—bought a plane. The King Air 250 cost $5.6 million, seats up to ten passengers in addition to crew and has a range of 1,610 miles. Its manufacturer goes on to say that,

With a spacious, handcrafted interior, the King Air 250 is remarkably versatile and comfortable. New ergonomic yokes and a standard lighted chart holder increase crew comfort, while the square-oval cabin provides passengers with generous head and shoulder room. Elegant interior touches make the King Air 250 a serious business solution with outstanding amenities to match. 

Sounds nice, but not everyone is impressed. The News-Tribune editorialized on the purchase thusly,

We appreciate the desire of the governor — or any governor — to remain close to constituents, but let’s be candid about much of this travel.

Many of the governor’s flights are self-serving, dog-and-pony show photo opportunities.

The chief executive is dunning his own departments to stave off spending from his own budget. It’s a pathetic practice and poor public policy.

State Democrats are also not pleased. We imagine one of them must be Sen. Claire McCaskill who sold her own "damn" plan at a loss for $1.9 million in 2011. We did some quick research and came up with the following table comparing the two planes.

   McCaskill Pilatus PC-12
 Nixon King Air 250
 Passengers  9  10
 Cruise speed
 312.5 MPH
 356.8 MPH
 Range  1,753 miles
 1,610 miles
 Cost  $1.9 million
 $5.6 million

It looks like Nixon could have saved a few million dollars and gotten a comparable plane and even helped McCaskill break even. But don't worry, it's not like he was spending his own money—he was spending yours.

UPDATE: Missourinet reports that Sen. Brad Lager says of the purchase that,

some aircraft owner-friends of his have told him they “never would have even thought of buying a brand new aircraft right now because on the used market right now they’re paying 35 to 38 cents on the dollar.”

1/23/2013 5:08:25 PM

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Kansas City’s Financial Plan: There Is No Plan

[ Patrick Tuohey ]

[This post originally appeared on the Show-Me Daily blog.]

Since 2003, Kansas City’s spending has increased by 42 percent, raising the city’s debt to a whopping $1.6 billion (from $517 million in 2003). The city’s population has grown just 4.2 percent in that same time. But there appears to be no plan to halt the spending.

Instead, it appears officials are willing to consider spending even more of the citizens’ taxpayer dollars, not on necessary services, but on items such as sidewalks, bike lanes, and light rail.

Kansas City’s Citizens’ Association, self-described as the city’s oldest non-partisan community organization, presented the astonishing numbers and an analysis of the city’s long-term financial future at a forum on Thursday. Association Chairman Dan Cofran developed a daunting, two-page primer on city finances.

The Association reported that Fitch Ratings downgraded its outlook on Kansas City’s credit to negative. That downgrade does not include the recent Kansas City taxes or the impending 15 percent annual water rate increase to cover a mandated sewer renovation.

Something needs to be done but officials do not appear to know how or where to start, and did not present any concrete plans to address the situation.

Panelists such as Kansas City Councilwoman Jan Marcason and City Manager Troy Schulte only agreed that the city must make the tough decisions that it has failed to do in the past, such as revamping the sewers. However, what those tough decisions might be were barely discussed. Marcason also declined to cite examples of spending that the City Council has rejected.

Even worse, Kansas City seems to have no serious plan for responding to Kansas’ recent tax reductions and eliminations. In fact, Schulte said Kansas City should not “race to the bottom” on taxation and suspected that Kansans would grow to regret the cuts. Again, no plan was introduced to counter Kansas’ recent business-friendly actions.

Panelists did share the view that limits voters have placed on them — such as term limits and requiring approval of the earnings tax every five years — are burdensome. The panel failed to recognize that taxpayers took those steps to try to rein in spending and approvals for every project seeking tax incentives.

Cofran continuously asked how citizens might enforce any long-term strategic plan. Marcason suggested only “working together.” If past actions and this event are any indication, few city elected officials are willing to work together, develop a plan, or make any tough decisions.

1/22/2013 8:39:29 AM

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  • Dead on the Vine

    Efforts to use public funds to revive Kansas City's jazz district have failed, and likely always will.

  • Stop the Aggression

    Answering individual aggression with government aggression will not lead us to the society we desire.

  • Taxes Do Harm Growth

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is wrong when it says that Kansas is going to fall of a fiscal cliff with its pro-growth tax reforms, and that Missouri will do the same if it follows the same path.

  • Moving For A Quality Education

    Randy Georges Sr. moved to the U.S. to obtain a good education; now, he may have to move across town so his kids can have the same opportunity. This is a sad state, especially when alternatives, such as giving families private school options, exist.

  • On the Border War

    Missouri has at least two chances to win the Border War.

  • Mo' Money Will Not Solve MO Problems

    The state’s foundation formula for K-12 education is currently underfunded. Some are calling for more spending, but freedom, not money, is the answer to our problem.

  • It Is Time to Reform Medicaid, Not Expand It

    Should Missouri and other states accept an offer of “free money” from Uncle Sam to expand the Medicaid program in their states? Instead of acting as enablers of fiscal profligacy, Missouri and other states should say “no.”

  • The Conservative Case for a State-Based Health Insurance Exchange

    Conservatives ought to consider these items before ceding state power to the federal government.

  • No Vote on Prop B, A Blessing in Disguise?

    Proposition B might have brought some much-needed funding for education, but voters turned down the measure. The “no” vote may actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise if legislators act on the need to address school funding issues.

  • Regarding Turk

    Letters regarding Jacob Turk's race for Congress.

  • Can Missouri Stop The Bleeding In A New Border War With Kansas?

    Missouri and Kansas have maintained a steady rivalry for decades, but Kansas' latest tax reforms have changed the competitive landscape between the two states — decidedly in Kansas' favor.

  • A Low-Performing School By Any Other Name . . .

    The state board of education voted to grant provisional accreditation to the Saint Louis Public School District, which is the correct decision, but this distinction will mean very little to schools or students.

  • St. Louis Gets Ballpark Village And You Get The Bill

    Subsidies to Ballpark Village and other big-city sports complexes are a gift to some of our wealthiest citizens — sports team owners — that provide little or no broader economic benefit.

  • Lessons For Kansas City From The Chicago Teachers Strike

    Strong teachers’ unions in large public school districts with multiple failing schools will do everything possible to maintain their jobs and benefits. If it is to happen, major reform must come from outside the existing system — through increased competition and choice.

  • Taxpayers Lobbying For More Taxes

    Taxpayer-funded lobbying for local government entities likely will not be banned so it is time to create transparency so citizens can see how their money is being spent.

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