Fall 2015

  • Better Use of Fund op-ed published December 21, 2015 by ACRE Policy Analyst Jacob Bundrick in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

“Putting Arkansans to work is a primary goal of economic development. Rather than fishing for outside opportunities with a failed slush fund for corporate welfare, we could do so much more right here at home.”

Jacob Bundrick says that government officials’ attempts to create jobs through tax breaks and subsidies are misdirected; rather, that money could go to more efficient uses to provide greater economic opportunity for Arkansans. Corporate welfare is a proven ineffective investment; seven of the ten beneficiaries of the Governor’s $156.25 million Quick Action Closing Fund failed to meet their employment promises. All the while, there is a predicted 100,000 shortage in skilled tradesmen in Arkansas by 2020. The state government could provide many more jobs if it used that $150 million on training to meet this shortage. If job creation is truly a priority for the state, we should assess the opportunity costs of corporate hand outs. Doing so will likely change policy for the better.

  • Lower the Screen op-ed published December 3, 2015 by ACRE Policy Analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

“By reducing the hassles teachers have to go through in order to get a teaching license, Arkansas will be able to recruit effective teachers that can help improve the education performance of the children.”

The 2015 National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) was recently released and Arkansas scored below the national average for 4th and 8th grade reading and mathematics. Whose it to blame for our poor scores? ACRE policy analyst Mavuto Kalulu explores this question and determines that it is likely our state’s licensing requirements for teachers that are hurting students.

Aspiring teachers have to pass qualifying exams to join the occupation. These tests may be dissuading potentially effective teachers from joining the occupation. Kalulu questions whether the tests are truly a way to tell good teachers from poor ones. Teachers need to know classroom material, know how to teach that material, and have soft skills to sense when the classroom’s attention span is at its limit. Not being able to score well on a licensure test does not guarantee one to be unable to teach; evidence shows no significant difference between classroom test scores from teachers that have failed or passed their qualifying exams.

By allowing more teachers into the profession we will have a greater ability to remove worse teachers, hopefully improving test scores in next time around.

“What have we missed out on by spending our resources on financial incentives for only a select few firms? Are subsidies and tax breaks for firms that often fail to provide promised jobs the best use of tax payer money? It is difficult to say “yes” when both Arkansas’ business and government leaders are concerned about the lack of formally educated labor in our state.”

ACRE policy analyst Jacob Bundrick draws attention to the fact that Arkansas’s economic development efforts are spent on ineffective corporate welfare rather than addressing the state’s skilled labor shortage. Handing out tax breaks and subsidies has an opportunity cost: the money could help provide education for our citizens. Currently Arkansas Businesses are in need of 63, 582 bachelors and 73,535 associate degree holders. Bundrick argues that if the state was focused on educating our work force rather than perpetuating cronyism we might see greater economic opportunity throughout Arkansas.

  • The Review of Scope of Practice Rules in Arkansas and Task Switching. Testimony (read here) and power point presentation (click here) from ACRE Director, Dr. David Mitchell, PhD for the Arkansas State Legislature Joint Performance Review Committee Meeting on November 9, 2015.

“With the shortage of providers growing steadily, getting the care Arkansans need to survive becomes more difficult each day. If the demand for health care is ever to be met, expanding the role of nurse practitioners is likely to be necessary.”

ACRE affiliate Zachary Helms says Arkansas is facing a major health crisis. Not only is our rate of diabetes now six times the national benchmark, we also have the highest obesity level in the nation. To make matters worse, there is a shortage of health care providers.

Due to physician’s need to have a steady stream of patients to be cost effective, there is difficulty attracting them to Arkansas’s many rural areas. The solution is an easy enough fix that many other states have already done: expand the role of nurse practitioners (NPs). Because NPs face a different cost structure than doctors, they can be more flexible with where they are located. This allows them to set up in rural areas with fewer patients.

Unfortunately, state law is keeping people without the care they need by preventing NPs from working at the scope they are capable. Right now NPs can only operate under the supervision of a doctor, prescribe a limited number of drugs, and are not deemed primary care providers, even though they have been fully trained in primary care.
If this was changed and practitioner’s roles were increased, we could see greater health outcomes for rural and poor people. Helms says that in doing so, we can change the lowly health status of our state’s residents.

  • ACRE scholar, Dr. Zack Donohew, discusses “Magic Markets” on Stossel September 4, 2015. Watch the interview here.Donohew on Stossel (1)
  • Nothing to Show op-ed published September 28, 2015 by ACRE Policy Analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

“The achievement-gap problem is solvable. It is not an easy problem, but it is solvable. Letting parents decide the best place for their children is an important way to do this.”

Since 2008, Arkansas has spent over $1 billion to close the achievement gap of economically disadvantaged students. This funding, as studies have found, made no real difference in academic outcomes. The education commissioner and other officials recognize that funding might not be the issue; instead, the problem is in school administration. Many recommend more state control of how that money is spent so that local school bureaucracy can be side stepped.

ACRE policy analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu agrees that school administration is an issue but disagrees that a top down government intervention is the solution. Instead, we need to find ways to serve our students on an individual level. This can be done through education vouchers and charter schools. With a voucher program, instead of funding schools, students are given money to attend institutions of their choice. This gives students the ability to attend schools that most fit their individual needs. Not only that, schools will recognize that students and funding are at stake, incentivizing them to be more effective. This same fear works for charter schools; they have five years to perform or they lose their charter.

Instead of spending millions more on ineffective programs, the state should take policy alternatives that promote grass roots, bottom up control. In doing so, we will see better academic outcomes and a greater responsiveness to individual student needs.

  • For More Freedom op-ed published September 19, 2015 by ACRE Director Dr. David Mitchell in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Those who favor big government try to think of different ways to divide the pie. With economic freedom, you don’t create prosperity by dividing the pie; prosperity is created by increasing the size of the pie.”

ACRE director Dr. David Mitchell partially blames both the state’s and the nation’s slow economic growth on the deterioration of economic freedom in the United States. Through the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World Index, we can observe this fall: in 2000, our economic freedom ranking was 8.65 (out of 10). Today it is 7.73. This decrease is due to changes in the size of government, legal systems and property rights, and freedom to trade internationally.

Economic freedom plays a large role in a nation’s prosperity. Over 2000 published academic journals have found a strong positive relationship between economic freedom and economic growth. More than that, we see greater prosperity for the poor and greater health outcomes in economically free countries.

Economic freedom should be especially important to the United States right now. For us to see substantial growth, we need to innovate. Only occur when individuals are given the ability to start, expand, manage, staff and restructure businesses without government intervention can this innovation occur. Economic freedom should be kept in mind when deciding policy for Arkansas.

  • Economic freedom has been shown in numerous studies to promote prosperity and other positive outcomes, like increased literacy rates and educational opportunities, longer and healthier lives and greater overall happiness. But what exactly is economic freedom? How is it achieved? How does the United States compare with other countries around the world? How does Arkansas rank within the US? In this thought provoking radio interview, UCA Assistant Professor of Economics, Dr. Jeremy Horpedahl, explains the recent results of the Fraser Institute’s “Economic Freedom of the World” annual report. Listen to the entire program called “South Arkansas Forum” which aired on September 17, 2015 on all six stations listed at www.totalradio.com.