A new six-county study of Smart Start shows little benefit for most children once they reach school. Coupled with the results of three other studies released since early 1998, these findings make the case for significant reform in the state's approach to early childhood policy. Smart Start should be reformed to 1) provide direct assistance to disadvantaged preschoolers and 2) give North Carolina families more resources with which to improve their children's readiness for school.
State lawmakers will consider today a revised tax and spending plan for the 2001-03 biennium that promises to shove an already teetering economy, buffeted by layoffs and the prospect of war, into a full-blown and painful recession. Its massive tax hike will fuel a healthy increase in wasteful state spending and help to push the state’s tax burden well above that of Massachusetts, California, and all the Southeastern states — and higher than the national average for the first time.
The ghastly terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington will have overwhelmingly negative consequences for the nation’s economy, despite the foolish suggestions of some that it will result in a net stimulus. North Carolina’s economy promises to be particularly hard-hit by troop deployments and faltering investor and consumer confidence. Now is the time for state leaders to dedicate themselves to strengthening the economy, not weakening it through massive tax hikes.
Gov. Mike Easley and other proponents are reportedly preparing to resurrect the idea of a state lottery for North Carolina. The case for this regressive and unpredictable source of revenue has, if anything, weakened in recent months, as other states with lotteries have experienced significant revenue shortfalls. The fact remains that Easley is overestimating the lottery’s potential revenue, thus creating the risk of additional tax increases in the future to make up the difference.
Supporters of the so-called "Clean Smokestacks" bill now under consideration by the state legislature are citing a study they claim proves that the legislation would save the lives of a thousand North Carolinians annually. In fact, the study says no such thing. Its subject matter bears little relationship to the bill's likely impact on North Carolina, which would be limited because most power-plant emissions affecting the state's air quality originate outside North Carolina.
posted August 16, 2001 by Michael Lowrey, John Hood
Despite hype to the contrary from state officials, the just-released 1997-98 ABC test results showed once again how poor the level of public education in North Carolina remains. Rating schools on the basis of student achievement, the Locke Foundation found that only 1 percent of public schools deserved an "A" for imparting grade-level skills to at least 90 percent of students. Fully half the schools received a "D" or "F."On average, only 66 percent of public school students tested at grade level — with far worse results on more rigorous national tests.
Since it was proposed by Gov. Jim Hunt in 1993, Smart Start has generated statewide and even national attention for its intriguing promise of combining public and private resources to boost educational achievement through early intervention. But two recent studies, one of its finances and the other of its effectiveness as an educational investment, challenge Smart Start's extravagant claims of success. The program has attracted little support from the private sector, and does not significantly improve the educational attainment of most preschoolers.
A new plan from N.C. House Democrats to increase state and local taxes by another $633 million in FY 01-02 would further damage North Carolina's already weakening economy. If passed, the tax hikes would push North Carolina's tax burden higher than the national average for the first time in history, and 12 percent higher than the regional average. Our tax burden would far exceed those of such states as California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.
A plan to increase North Carolina's sales tax by up to one penny, with a corresponding reduction in tax reimbursements to local governments, could endanger the state's economic recovery and threaten tens of thousands of jobs. No change in expected revenue growth or threat to the state's bond rating would have consequences severe enough to justify a $400 to $800 million tax hike on families and businesses whose tax burden is already the highest in the Southeast.
Embedded within "clean smokestacks" legislation now moving through the General Assembly is the creation of a new commission to develop state policies to combat global warming. But the scientific issues involved are complex and unsettled. If North Carolina were to try to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions on its own, it would have a trivial impact on global climate but destroy tens of thousands of jobs, particularly in the state's faltering manufacturing sector.
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