Thursday, June 23, 2011

PS427: N.J. Legislature Moves to Cut Benefits for Public Workers

N.J. Legislature Moves to Cut Benefits for Public Workers -

This is very interesting on several levels.

First, Gov. Christie was the originator of GOP efforts to cut public employee benefits and salaries following his election in 2009, a year before the GOP landslide of 2010. He has been a leader in the party and a true policy innovator.

Second, both houses of the state legislature are controlled by the Democrats, not the GOP. So for this to pass Christie had to win the backing of some Dems. (He did the same last year in passing the budget.) Think about what an achievement that is.

Third, NJ is one of the most heavily unionized states, so this isn't for lack of a union organization in the state.

BTW: Gov. Christie will be on Meet the Press Sunday morning. Should be an interesting interview.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

PS427: 3-year college degree programs not catching on

3-year college degree programs not catching on - The Washington Post

This is a common proposal for higher ed reform, but this article is typical of assessments of how well it works. Badly. Not to say it can't be done. Just that very few students choose to do it when it is offered.

Monday, June 20, 2011

PS427: It's all about jobs

That was the theme of the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, the January legislative special session, and a nice article by Craig Gilbert based on an interview with Governor Walker in today's

So what about jobs and job creation? Let's get the fundamentals right: If this were simple or formulaic, everyone would do it. And to be really serious about this requires a graduate degree in economics or similar expertise.

But let's not let that stop us.  Today we'll launch a series of posts on various aspects of job creation. To be clear this can't possibly cover everything. But I think we can explore a variety of aspects of job creation.

We start with tech and non-tech jobs in medium to smaller cities with a series of short articles.

Small City Job Creation

High tech in the deep south BTW: this is my home region-- beset by poverty but with surprising economic resurgence along I-85 (though not in my hometown, 40 miles from the nearest Interstate.)

Epicenters of high tech (note Milwaukee)

New Growth from Old Industry

Economic rebound

PS427: Taking the “State” Out of State Universities

Can a state university be "privatized"?

Taking the “State” Out of State Universities: June 2011

There are unique obligations that come with state universities: educating in-state students, for example. Holding down tuition for in-state taxpayers. Possibly providing an excellent education, though I hear that mentioned somewhat less often.

This and the previous post raise the possibility (in my mind at least) of two potential directions. One is greater autonomy, much as the New Badger Partnership in Wisconsin proposed. That is short of full privatization but with some gains in administrative and management flexibility, yet with loss of state legislative oversight. A second option goes in the opposite direction: more state mandates over faculty workload and "student credits per faculty member". The driving notion here is that left to themselves, universities overpay and underwork their faculty and strong state oversight should require increased teaching loads (and perhaps say more about curriculum content, such as more applied or job-relevant courses.) Before the Irish economic bust, some elements of this "business responsive curriculum" was credited with drawing major tech firms to Ireland.

What I've not seen acknowledged or considered is the potential for a growing divide between public and private universities. Privates can price themselves completely out of some markets-- such as remedial programs to help students deficient in high school skills nevertheless complete college, one goal that seems special to public schools. Privates, immune to legislative influence, can simply position themselves for whatever the markets for students (on one hand) and faculty (on the other) select and optimize. Arguably for decades Berkeley and Stanford have been peers, one public and one private. But can new models of publics maintain this equality?

PS427: Reconstructing Higher Education

See this article from the NCSL-- National Conference of State Legislatures. They are bipartisan and a great source of state policy information. We'll use their material frequently.

Reconstructing Higher Education: June 2011

Wisconsin is not the only state struggling with how public colleges and universities can have both flexibility and public oversight. This article gives one overview of some of the issues.

And for an eerie parallel to Wisconsin's recent issues, consider this from Oregon:

U. of Oregon’s President, Chided by State Board, Gets One-Year Contract Extension
June 17, 2011, 12:46 pm

Richard W. Lariviere, president of the University of Oregon, was offered just a one-year extension of his current contract by the State Board of Higher Education, on the condition that he become more of a team player and stop trying to win his university more independence from the state, The Oregonian reported. His effort is opposed by the Oregon University System, which is promoting its own plan to give more regulatory freedom to all of its institutions.

Monday, June 13, 2011

PS427: The Budget is Where Reality Happens

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau just released three reports on the budget legislation coming from Joint Finance.

The links are:

Property Tax Memo

General Fund Budget

State Taxes and Fees

All are worth reading.

PS427: Thirty Years of Falling Behind

For 20 years, from 1960 to 1980, Wisconsin and Minnesota were twins in real income. Neither state outpaced the other in real income growth per capita.

But in the summer of 1981 that changed. Since then Minnesota has enjoyed faster income growth, and the gap between the states has widened steadily for 30 years.

Given we were twins for 20 years, what changed in 1981 that made Minnesota the economic power and Wisconsin the slower growth sibling?

Is Minnesota doing something right or Wisconsin doing something wrong? How might state government affect this difference, and why hasn't it been addressed over 30 years? Or if private business is the solution, why have they failed to keep up with our neighbors?