As Tad DeHaven mentioned the other day, CNN reported recently that business owners and residents on Hawaii's Kauai island got together and made repairs to a state park -- in eight days -- that the state had said would cost $4 million and might not get done for months. Businesses were losing money since people couldn't visit the park, so they decided to take matters into their own hands.
"We can wait around for the state or federal government to make this move, or we can go out and do our part," [kayaking company owner Ivan] Slack said. "Just like everyone's sitting around waiting for a stimulus check, we were waiting for this but decided we couldn't wait anymore."...
"We shouldn't have to do this, but when it gets to a state level, it just gets so bureaucratic, something that took us eight days would have taken them years," said Troy Martin of Martin Steel, who donated machinery and steel for the repairs. "So we got together -- the community -- and we got it done."
It reminds me of the story 20 years ago of how Donald Trump got tired of watching the city of New York take six years to renovate a skating rink, so he just called up Mayor Ed Koch, offered to do it himself, and got the job done in less than four months. He got so enamored of the skating rink that he ended up getting the concession to run it.
And it also reminds me of the stories in James Tooley's brand-new book, The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey Into How the World's Poorest People Are Educating Themselves, which talks about how poor people in China, India, and Africa have set up schools for their children because government schools were absent or of poor quality.
If government would get out of the way, businesses, churches, charities, and individuals would solve a lot more social problems.
Last week, a U.S. Department of Education study revealed that students participating in a Washington D.C. voucher pilot program outperformed peers attending public schools.
According to The Washington Post, the study found that "students who used the vouchers received reading scores that placed them nearly four months ahead of peers who remained in public school." In a statement, education secretary Arne Duncan said that the Obama administration "does not want to pull participating students out of the program but does not support its continuation."
Why then did the Obama administration "let Congress slash the jugular of DC's school voucher program despite almost certainly having an evaluation in hand showing that students in the program did better than those who tried to get vouchers and failed?"
The answer, says Cato scholar Neal McCluskey, lies in special interests and an unwillingness to embrace change after decades of maintaining the status quo:
It is not just the awesome political power of special interests, however, that keeps the monopoly in place. As Terry Moe has found, many Americans have a deep, emotional attachment to public schooling, one likely rooted in a conviction that public schooling is essential to American unity and success. It is an inaccurate conviction — public schooling is all-too-often divisive where homogeneity does not already exist, and Americans successfully educated themselves long before "public schooling" became widespread or mandatory — but the conviction nonetheless is there. Indeed, most people acknowledge that public schooling is broken, but feel they still must love it.
Susan L. Aud and Leon Michos found the program saved the city nearly $8 million in education costs in a 2006 Cato study that examined the fiscal impact of the voucher program.
To learn more about the positive effect of school choice on poor communities around the world, join the Cato Institute on April 15 to discuss James Tooley's new book, The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey Into How the World's Poorest People Are Educating Themselves.
Obama Announces New Direction on Immigration
The New York Times reports, "President Obama plans to begin addressing the country's immigration system this year, including looking for a path for illegal immigrants to become legal, a senior administration official said on Wednesday."
In the immigration chapter of the Cato Handbook for Policymakers, Cato trade analyst Daniel T. Griswold offered suggestions on immigration policy, which include:
- Expanding current legal immigration quotas, especially for employment-based visas.
- Creating a temporary worker program for lower-skilled workers to meet long-term labor demand and reduce incentives for illegal immigration.
- Refocusing border-control resources to keep criminals and terrorists out of the country.
In a 2002 Cato Policy Analysis, Griswold made the case for allowing Mexican laborers into the United States to work.
For more on the argument for open borders, watch Jason L. Riley of The Wall Street Journal editorial board speak about his book, Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders.
In Case You Couldn't Join Us
Cato hosted a number of fascinating guests recently to speak about new books, reports and projects.
- Salon writer Glenn Greenwald discussed a new Cato study that exa
mines the successful drug decriminalization program in Portugal.
- Patri Friedman of the Seasteading Institute explained his project to build self-sufficient deep-sea platforms that would empower individuals to break free of national governments and start their own societies on the ocean.
- Dambisa Moyo, author of the book Dead Aid, spoke about her research that shows how government-to-government aid fails. She proposed an "aid-free solution" to development, based on the experience of successful African countries.
Find full-length videos to all Cato events on Cato's events archive page.
Also, don't miss Friday's Cato Daily Podcast with legal policy analyst David Rittgers on Obama's surge strategy in Afghanistan.
What would you do if you earned about a dollar a day and wanted a better life for your kids?
And what if your local public schools just weren't working -- with teachers often cutting classes or showing up only to sip tea and read the paper, ignoring their students. If you're like the majority of poor Ghanians, Kenyans, Nigerians, Indians, and Chinese that professor James Tooley has studied over the past decade, you'd pay for private schooling at tuition around $2/month.
From impoverished fishing villages to blighted ghettos like those featured in Slumdog Millionaire, from the largest shanty-town in Africa to the remote farming communities of inland China, the poorest people on Earth are not waiting for educational handouts. They are taking matters into their own hands and sending their children to private schools in their own neighborhoods and villages.
Next Wednesday at noon, James Tooley will be at Cato's DC headquarters to launch his book The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey into how the World's Poorest People Are Educating Themselves.
His stories are compelling -- his discovery of private schools serving slum children in Hyderabad, his thoughts while being interrogated by one of Mugabe's goons in a basement cell in Zimbabwe, his reaction to the party functionary in Gansu, China who told him that the private schools he had just visited did not exist. In addition to James' stories, you'll also hear those of Reshma Lohia, who runs Lohia's Little Angels -- a school serving 500 poor children in Hyderabad, India.
When I report my findings that parent-driven education markets outperform state-run school monopolies, one of the most common objections I hear is that many parents -- especially poor, marginally-educated ones -- couldn't make wise choices for their kids. If you've ever pondered that concern, you owe it to yourself to stop by the Cato Institute next Wednesday at noon. Because James has not only chronicled the existence of private schools serving vast numbers of the poor, he has documented in peer-reviewed studies how their performance compares to that of nearby public schools spending many times as much per pupil.
You can register for the event here and help spread the word on Facebook. We look forward to seeing you.