Grassroot Perspective – March 17, 2003-Expanding Parental Choice – 2003; The Anti-Energy Manifesto of the State Attorneys General; America Talks Health Care

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Following items are from Vermonts Ethan Allen Institute Policy Brief, March 10, 2003

Expanding Parental Choice – 2003

Advocates of expanding parental choice in education believe that different children have different educational needs, and that giving parents a wide range of choices makes it most likely that the child and school will be well matched for the child’s learning benefit. Many also believe that parents ought to be empowered to choose an independent school for their children when they feel the independent school offers a more rigorous curriculum, emphasizes moral and religious values, avoids trendy political correctness, and maintains a greater level of safety from violence and drugs.

Act 150 of 2000 allows a very small percentage of pupils from public school grades 9-12 (five percent, or 10, whichever is lesser) to transfer to another public school within a “public high school choice region.” Usage of the act has been very limited, mainly because the students wishing to transfer have little interest in choosing another public school within the region. In 2002 the House passed a bill (H. 716) that allowed public school choice throughout the state, subject to tight restrictions. The Senate failed to act.

Six important bills in the 2003 session would expand parental choice in education.

Public School Choice: S. 121 (Sens. Maynard, Mullin and Shepard) is essentially the same as the House-passed H. 716 of 2002. Upon request of parents, districts would pay tuition (equal to 90 percent of the general state support grant) to other public schools chosen by the parents.

Tax Credit for Educational Assistance Organizations: H. 198 (Rep. Otterman and 14 others) would authorize tax credits for contributions to an “educational assistance organization.” This is a nonprofit organization that awards means-tested tuition scholarships to enable children to attend independent schools, including religious schools, of their choice. Existing community education foundations could qualify as EAOs if they kept scholarship funds in a separate account.

The amount of the credit would be 50 percent of an individual’s contribution up to a maximum credit of $10,000, or 50 percent of a corporation’s contribution up to a maximum credit of $100,000. The credit would be in addition to the charitable deduction allowed by the Internal Revenue Code.

Tax Credit for Home Schooling: H. 235 (Rep. Otterman and 17 others) would authorize a taxpayer to claim a credit of up to $500 a year per child for books, instructional materials, supplies, and Internet access used in a home schooling program. The credit could be claimed only after the completion of a year of homeschooling. If the credit exceeded the family’s income tax liability, the difference would be credited to the family’s property tax obligations.

To protect home schooling families against intrusive state regulation, the bill also provides that “nothing in this act shall be interpreted to authorize or require any state regulation or reporting beyond that authorized or required on January 1, 2003, unless such additional regulation or reporting is specifically authorized or required by subsequent legislative acts.”

Charter Schools: In 35 other states teachers, parents, and businesses create and operate public charter schools outside the normal public school rules, except for health and safety, fiscal integrity and civil rights. H. 77 (Rep. Frank Mazur) would authorize school districts, the State Board of Education, UVM, or a state college to create charter schools. Such schools are obliged to perform according to the conditions of their charter, at the risk of nonrenewal. School districts would be required to pay tuition for pupils choosing a charter school, up to the amount of the general state support grant. Parents could not be balance billed. In 1997 the Senate voted 18-12 to create charter schools as a part of what became Act 60, but the provision was dropped in conference.

Special Education Vouchers: H. 77 (Rep. Carl Haas) would create a Rutland and Chittenden Co. demonstration program where local school districts gave vouchers to special education students to attend other public or independent schools.

“The Chittenden Bill”: H.262 (Rep. Otterman) would allow a school board to tuition pupils to independent faith-based schools. This practice was struck down by Vermont Supreme Court in 1999 on the grounds that using tax dollars to pay tuition for pupils attending religious schools violated the “compelled support” clause of the Constitution (Ch. I, art.3).

As originally provided for in the Ministerial Act of 1801, this bill avoids the “compelled support” objection by creating a mechanism for objecting taxpayers to receive a pro rata refund of their taxes used for tuition of pupils to faith-based schools. If a pupil completed a year of schooling in an approved or recognized independent school, a local school board could reimburse parents for the tuition expenses, up to 65 percent (high school: 80 percent) of the general state support grant received by the town.

Fiscal Effects of Parental Choice Bills: The EAO credit and homeschooling credit not only expand parental choice, but also reduce the drain on the state education fund. That is because independent schooling and home schooling are significantly less costly that public schooling, which has now reached the $10,000 per pupil per year level. Every pupil who departs a public school for an independent school or homeschool reduces state payments to public schools by the amount of the state support grant. Even when the revenue loss of the credit is taken into account, the state will come out ahead.

The Chittenden Bill, charter school bill, public school choice bill, and the special education voucher bill would have no effect on the Education Fund, but they would divert all or part of the general state support grant from the school district of residence to the chosen public, charter or independent school. All would allow local school districts to keep any difference between the funding received by the state and the tuition paid. The charter bill also carries an appropriation of $500,000 to assist charter school startups.

– The Anti-Energy Manifesto of the State Attorneys General

By Marlo Lewis, Jr. of the Competitive Enterprise Institute

The State Attorneys General build their case for energy rationing on Chapter 6 of the Bush Administration’s Climate Action Report 2002 (CAR). That chapter presents scary projections of U.S. temperature increases and climate impacts over the next century. The AGs claim the President’s refusal to regulate CO2 is “inconsistent” with the Report’s “dire findings and conclusions.” There is a massive problem with this line of argument. Rather than embrace energy rationing, the Bush Administration should withdraw the Climate Action Report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and redact it from the public record. Otherwise, it will continue to lend the color of legitimacy to those, like the eleven AGs, who advocate economy-chilling restrictions on energy use.

CONTACT: Competitive Enterprise Institute, 1001 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 1250, Washington, D.C., 20036, phone: (202) 331-1010, fax: (202) 331-0640,,

Above article is quoted from Heritage Foundation The Insider November/December 2002

”Roots (Food for Thought)”

– America Talks Health Care

Author: Twila Brase

Published: The Heartland Institute 02/01/2003

Tax credits and Medical Savings Accounts took center stage at the Bush administration’s first “Talk to Tommy” public forum on health care, held December 10, 2002 in Minneapolis. Similar meetings are being held across the country, including one held December 17 in Jacksonville, Florida to focus on doctors and medical malpractice issues.

Billed as America Talks Health Care, the event featured Tommy Thompson, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and two panel discussions addressing individual control and ownership of health insurance.

Thompson invited the audience of approximately 250 people to share any ideas for improving health care, no matter how radical. “Health care is the number one issue facing Americans today,” he said. The Bush administration plans $117 billion in new health care initiatives, Thompson noted, including tax credits, health accounts, and association health plans. Health insurance, he said, should be accessible, accountable, and affordable.

Provocative Panels

Russell Hagen, CEO of Data Recognition Corporation (DRC), described during one of the panel discussions the menu of health benefits his company offers to its employees, and how enrollment in the various plan options has changed in recent years. As insurance premiums have increased, he noted, enrollment in the company’s most expensive plans has fallen. Nevertheless, only 17 percent choose the company’s major medical plan, which costs 43 percent less than the highest-priced plan.

DRC is unusual in that it will not allow its employees to be uninsured. Employees are enrolled automatically, and their share of premium payments is deducted from their paychecks, unless they present a letter to human resources stating they are enrolled in a spouse’s health plan.

“It’s a bit paternalistic, but tough bounce,” Hagen admitted. His primary goal, he said, is a healthy workforce.

Panelist Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, discussed tax reform as key to increasing consumer choice and the share of the U.S. population covered by insurance. Although employers receive tax deductions for providing health insurance to employees, “millions of women believe they could pick a better policy than the HR department,” she noted. Tax credits would make it financially possible for individuals to purchase policies that suit their needs better than the one-size-fits-all employer-provided group policies.

Saying the number of uninsured would drop by half, Turner advocated refundable tax credits that would target the uninsured, while not disturbing those with existing coverage. She emphasized, “Whoever controls the money controls the choices.”

William McGuire, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, wants consumers to have good information. He advocated evidence-based medicine to increase accountability and wise use of health care resources. And then, as if to prepare members of the audience for the inevitable public opposition, he quipped, “Remember that for the privacy thing.”

John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), charged the federal tax code with being “very biased against people being allowed to control health care dollars.” He revealed “tax law is encouraging us all to be in HMOs.”

“We need a use-it-or-save-it account,” Goodman said, because “nobody cares about you more than you care about you.”

David Hess, corporate vice president for benefits at Medtronic, and Carla Bender, a Medtronic employee, discussed Health Reimbursement Arrangements. Since it began offering Definity Health’s HRA plan, Medtronic’s costs have decreased. Employees choose generic drugs more often, and they use the company’s nurse line more often to address relatively minor health issues. To Bender’s relief, Definity allows her to “know the exact financial obligation” of any procedure.

Medical Savings Accounts

Kallija Paraska, senior vice president for Accordia Northwest, a Seattle-based insurance brokerage firm, discussed Medical Savings Accounts as a way to significantly reduce health insurance costs. She said she can provide a Washington State employer with an MSA plan for just $103 per employee per month, compared to at least $312 per employee per month for standard insurance policies.

Thirty-four percent of MSA enrollees are senior citizens, who use their MSAs primarily for prescription drug coverage. According to Paraska, the cost of an MSA plan for seniors is $175 per month. Accordia’s MSA enrollees have seen premium increases of no more than 5 percent. One CEO with 24 employees used Accordia to switch to MSAs. The company’s $89,000 annual health insurance expense dropped to $51,000. Part of the savings went to the employees, and $13,000 went to support the company’s bottom line.

Accordia has a stringent requirement for those considering MSAs: No MSA purchases without education. To assure success of the program, Accordia requires that MSA enrollees learn how to use the MSA wisely. Training sessions are held three times a year in large auditoriums. All of them are packed, Paraska said.

Public health nurse Twila Brase, president of Citizens’ Council on Health Care, writes a regular column on health care issues for The Heartland Institute’s quarterly public policy magazine, Intellectual Ammunition. She can be reached by email at More information about CCHC can be found on its Web site at

Above article is quoted from Heartland Institute Health Care News February 2003

”Evergreen (Today’s Quote)”

“Potentially, a government is the most dangerous threat to man’s rights; it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims. When unlimited and unrestricted by individual rights, a government is man’s deadliest enemy. It is not as protection against private actions, but against governmental actions that the Bill of Rights was written.” — Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness [1964]

”’Edited by Richard O. Rowland, president of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. He can be reached at (808) 487-4959 or by email at:”’ ”’For more information, see its Web site at:”’