Unfunded Mandates and other Big Government Benefits

Have you noticed that every new government activity either raises taxes, or raises our cost of living, or both? And they come at a time when our economy is in the tank, work hours are being cut to avoid Obamacare penalties, and median earned income has dropped $2,617 in just the past four years.

Something is wrong here. Expansion of EPA regulations are destined to destroy the coal industry, and, as predicted by our President, will cause our electrical costs to “skyrocket.” The ethanol requirement in our auto fuel has certainly secured the votes of corn growers, but at the expense of all the rest of us in higher food costs and lower gasoline mileage. Oil shale fracturing is prohibited and the Keystone pipeline is condemned. And for the first time ever, the average regular gasoline pump prices have exceeded $3 per gallon for over 1,000 consecutive days. If you recall, the average gasoline price when President Bush left office was $1.78. I could go on, but you already know all of this.

However, here’s one that I’ll bet you didn’t expect. The new Common Core State Initiative educational standards, currently being implemented by 45 of the 50 states, will cost you even more additional tax money. Although the federal government is providing wide-band Internet access to all classrooms, the cost of providing the computers necessary to utilize this access must be borne by local communities.

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An example can already be shown in neighboring Murfreesboro, TN, population 105,209 . At last month’s meeting, City Schools Director Linda Gilbert asked the city council to approve a plan to spend $5.2 million to purchase the required student computers. “Not only are we facing the need for upgrading our computers based on instructional demands, but we are facing a writing assessment in February which must be administered online to all students in grades 3-6,” said City Schools Director Linda Gilbert. That’s $49.43 for every man, woman, and child in the community, and must be in place before February. Gilbert continued. “In addition, Tennessee’s achievement tests for the 2014-2015 school year will be given online.” It’s a situation being played out all over the country, and obviously, time is of the essence.

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According to The Pioneer Institute, a Massachusetts-based non-partisan public policy research group, it will cost local school districts an estimated $16 billion to implement the new education standards. And this does not include additional spending for reforms to help students meet the new standards.

So how did rural communities, such as Mufreesboro, get into this mess? It’s because back in 2010 Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen agreed to accept some $500 million in federal “Race to the Top” grants, whose federal strings included acceptance of the controversial Common Core teaching requirements and associated expenses. So far, 45 states have accepted the federal dole, while 5 states, plus the island of Puerto Rico, have refused. But as we are now discovering, the costs of compliance will greatly exceed the monies initially provided by Washington.

Two days of open hearings are being held this week in Nashville by the Senate Education Committee. It will be interesting to hear the results of those meetings, but don’t hold your breath that anything meaningful will develop. We’re stuck with it now, and you can bet it wasn’t included in any of the recently approved municipal budgets. So tighten your seat belts and loosen your purse strings. It’s going to get worse.

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