Why Tax Increases are Bad Ideas
Pensions & Retirement
The Saga Continues
In my last (March 23) newsletter, I recounted the ridiculous story of how the Pensions and Retirement Committee was given 1999 balance sheets rather than current reports. At that meeting I requested (and was promised) the 2000 balance sheet as well as those for January, February and (as soon as possible) March 2001.
Well, it is over two weeks later and I still don't have them. This week that committee was meeting to decide on important issues, still without enough information to make an intelligent choice. I informed the committee that I strongly suggested that acting without information was the height of irresponsibility and I left.
Apparently the Treasurer's office was a little embarrassed, because I received a call from the head of the retirement fund who wanted to come see me. He wants me to quit saying I don't have current information. My response is that if he wants me to stop, all he has to do is give me the information I asked for. That shouldn't be difficult, but apparently there is a problem because I still don't have it.
Testing Our Patience
Meaningless Tests Continue
On May 19th a story in The Enquirer-Journal was headlined "Writing scores reach five year high." On May 24th a story in the same paper was headlined "10th grade writing scores down" and the first line revealed that writing scores for 10th graders had "dropped dramatically."
Neither story mentioned that the writing scores released by the state are absolutely meaningless because the tests are controlled by the same people who design the curriculum. In other words, if the curriculum doesn't include spelling, the test score may not reflect spelling ability . . .as is the case with the test on which our students supposedly did so well.
For several years now, I have tried to get the state to provide useful test scores, scores that let us know how well our children are doing relative to those in other states and other countries. I even managed to get a law passed requiring national comparison information be given parents, but the Democrats in charge in Raleigh have simply ignored the law.
This year I introduced bills that would cut off all funding for tests that did not comply with the law and that would require returning graded high stakes tests so parents can see what is being tested and students can learn from their errors on the tests. The Democrats have refused to bring either bill up for a vote.
Recently the press has discovered that the 5th grade math test is flawed. Let me assure you that it is not the only test that is flawed. Our testing program seems to have been designed by people who want to destroy any support for testing. Maybe it was.
Does the Left Hand Know What the Right Hand Is Doing?
The proposed Senate budget has a special provision that lets the State Board of Education use $3 million dollars that would otherwise be spent on State Aid to Local School Administrative Units to "continue to develop a high school exit exam, to revise the reading and writing assessments and to purchase equipment for scoring tests."
The very next special provision, headed "Fairness in Testing Program" calls for extensive reviews of every imaginable aspect of the testing program. It calls for consideration of using nationally developed tests as a substitute for State-developed tests. It specifically calls for considering using a combination of factors along with the SAT, AP tests or other nationally standardized tests rather than developing a high school exit exam.
Either the people considering these alternatives have already decided against them, or it seems awful foolish to spend $3 million on something we may not even want.
Considering the history of our state's testing program, I suspect the fix is in. Our "experts" have opposed national testing ever since they started giving high school diplomas to children who couldn't pass a 7th grade test, for obvious reasons.
As part of the Excellent Schools Act, the General Assembly directed the Department of Public Instruction to tell parents at least annually how their child was doing based on a national standard. DPI has ignored that law, claiming they are unable to comply. Nonsense.
DPI has shown they do not want tests that would reveal the gross inadequacy of the curriculum they've designed. The public should consider the spending provision a strong hint that the review of our state's testing program will be under the control of the same people who designed it. Any result other than independently designed tests should be promptly rejected.
TAXES ARE TAXES
Why Tax Increases Are Bad Ideas
"Don't tax you. Don't tax me. Tax that guy behind the tree." This may not be the exact quote, but it sure captures a common sentiment: seems everybody wants someone else to foot the bill for government.
Alternatively, people don't mind paying a tax so long as their share is insignificant to them. The fact that someone else's share might be significant to them because of different personal circumstances doesn't seem to cross their minds.
My problem in relating to these attitudes is my experience as a CPA. I take no comfort from taxing corporations rather than individuals, because I know that corporations are simply a pile of papers and the true cost is always felt by individuals: either by the owner, or the employee, or the customer. Every tax however it is structured transfers spending decisions from individuals and families to politicians.
Similarly, there is no insignificant tax because no tax stands alone. To pick out a single tax and say it won't cost much is to ignore all of the other burdens the government has already placed on taxpayers.
Government at the national level is already taking more family income than can be justified, but at least they're passing tax relief. North Carolina is currently taking more from her citizens than any other state in the Southeast. We don't need higher taxes; we need better spending decisions.