Monthly Archives: August 2015

New York Times faults opt-out movement

A New York Times editorial board piece published on Friday, (“Opting Out of Standardized Tests Isn’t the Answer”, Aug. 14) raised concerns over New York’s 20 percent assessment opt-out rate for students in grades 3 through 8. The Times referred to the opt-out movement as an “ill-conceived boycott” that could seriously harm education reform.

The main culprit behind the damaging, heavily publicized opt-out movement has been a massive media attack by the teachers unions, whose anger over the student-growth component of evaluations has driven a campaign filled with misinformation aimed to induce anxiety among parents and students.

The Business Council has been at the forefront of support for both higher education standards and quality assessments, pointing to employers’ difficulty in finding qualified workers with skills such as critical-thinking and problem-solving. The annual assessments in grades 3 through 8 are a necessary “check-up” tool to ensure that students are being prepared for college and the work world.

While student gains in English Language Arts and math tests this year were incremental overall, it is critical that New York stick to the implementation of higher education standards and aligned assessments.

The Business Council agrees with the Times editorial board that political leaders must be vocal in their support for the tests. We also believe that additional steps should be taken to ensure that teachers and parents are able to adjust to the new, more rigorous assessments.

How are high energy costs affecting job growth?

The U.S Chamber of Commerce is out with a terrific piece highlighting the negative effect high energy costs are having on job growth throughout New England. The story is familiar to anyone who has tried to own and operate a business in New York.

One of our own member companies, Kinder Morgan, which is in the process of securing approvals for a natural gas pipeline which would run through portions of New York State, receives a mention in the post.

“Pipeline companies are itching to extend their lines to bring plentiful gas into Massachusetts; Kinder Morgan KMI +0.87% has already signed up long-term buyers for the gas it would haul in via its stalled $3.3 billion Northeast Direct line.

But that’s not going to happen, at least not anytime soon. Despite the fact that Western Massachusetts’ GDP plunged 3.6% from 2007-13 (while the U.S. overall expanded 5.6% over the same time), opposition by small, well-organized groups to any new pipeline remains as ferocious as it is irrational. “We want to prevent the overbuilding of gas infrastructure and overreliance on gas, for economic reasons and climate reasons,” says Kathryn Eiseman, head of Massachusetts PipeLine Awareness Network advocacy group. Yet thanks to her group and others like it, in January 2014 New England’s power companies, lacking gas to make electricity, resorted to burning 2.7 million barrels of emergency fuel oil–more expensive and far more toxic, pumping out twice as much carbon dioxide as natural gas. So much for “economic and climate reasons.””

New Yorkers know all too well the negative impact NIMBY-activism can have on economic growth. We encourage you to take the time to read the entire piece and let us know what you think.

Brief highlights impact of $15 minimum wage

The Manhattan Institute, a highly-regarded, nonpartisan, independent research and educational organization is out with a new issue brief examining the economic impact of raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

This is an issue close to the mind of many New Yorkers after the recent decision by the state Labor Department to recommend raising wages for fast-food workers to $15 an hour by 2018 in New York City and 2021 in the rest of the state.

According to the executive summary, The Manhattan Institute concludes:

“We find that increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020 would affect 55.1 million workers and cost 6.6 million jobs. Aggregate income among low-wage workers would rise by $105.4 billion, after accounting for income declines from job losses. However, only 6.7 percent of the increase in income would go to workers who are actually in poverty.

Because the exact effect of the minimum wage on employment remains unsettled, we check the robustness of our results by employing a range of estimates from the literature that imply modest, moderate, and severe employment consequences. In each case, we analyze how the change in earnings resulting from a minimum-wage increase would be distributed across income levels.”

We find it particularly interesting that the brief finds less than 7 percent of the projected increase in worker income would go to people living in poverty. Especially since advocates often cite lifting workers out of poverty as the primary reason drastic wage hikes are necessary.

We encourage you to read the Manhattan Institute’s full report and let us know what you think.