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Think Tanks Wrap-up

Feb. 28, 2002 at 8:06 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- The UPI Think Tank Wrap-up is a daily digest covering brief opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events, and position statements released by various think tanks.


The Cato Institute

Bush's Welfare Reauthorization Plan Boosts Cash Aid, Weakens Work Requirements, and Broadens Government Intervention in Marriage

President Bush announced his plan for reauthorization of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act this week. It includes four proposals and his faith-based initiative, a "4-Plus-1" approach that may cost more than $19 billion.

Kimble Ainslie, entitlements policy analyst at the Cato Institute, had the following comments:

"The president is promoting a $17 billion cash assistance package for the states. This money will go to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. While the president claims this package 'holds the line' on spending, it actually is a $500 million increase from the current congressional appropriation of $16.5 billion, and nearly $4 billion more than actual spending by the states.

"Second, the president proposes to increase the 'work participation' component of the welfare law to 70 percent 'within five years,' up from the current 50 percent work requirement. While this seems to toughen the rules, the president's proposal also seeks to relax further the rules on 'work' participation to allow welfare recipients to replace 'training' and education for real work. Since there is already a major problem in the law with lackadaisical work definitions and numerous work exemptions, the policy backsliding on the workforce component of the welfare law will be worsened.

The 70 percent work participation 'requirement' amounts to unneeded symbolic politics.

"Third, the president wants to promote marriage among single welfare mothers. The president will press for $300 million in spending on programs to resolve marital conflicts, improve marital communications, reduce the divorce rate, and address problems of alcoholism, infidelity, and gambling that negatively affect families. The plan also would reauthorize $135 million for abstinence sex education programs. It is uncertain whether the president's pro-marriage plan will work.

"Similar training programs by governments for pregnancy prevention and workforce preparation have mostly failed in the states. In addition, it is not clear that low-income women ought to be forced to marry apparent statistical prospects from their low-income environment if that marriage prospect will not lead to long-term emotional and financial stability. Indeed, single mothers in some low-income cases are making rational 'marketplace' decisions by not marrying poor prospects.

"Fourth, the president seeks to reinvigorate the 'flexible federalism' component of the current welfare law by allowing States to take more control of the policy and administration dimensions of welfare provision. This is a good step. However, the current welfare law significantly ties the hands of the states through mandatory 'State' Plans, which have crippled policy innovations.

"Finally, the president is again pushing his 'faith-based initiative.' While I applaud the president's orientation to promote America's cultural beneficence, and enhancement of our civil society, it is not clear that state involvement in churches and charities is the most efficacious approach. Although the president's idea of ridding churches and charities of excessive government regulation to work on their own is a good idea, this should not mean deregulation in order to receive government hand-outs."


War with Iraq: Who Decides?

By Gene Healy

With even the usually cautious Secretary of State Colin Powell calling for "regime change" in Baghdad, it's become increasingly clear that Iraq is the next target in the war on terror. According to press accounts, administration officials are drawing up plans for the president's review, examining whether massive U.S. ground forces will be needed, or if instead the Iraqi National Congress can take the place of the Northern Alliance and do most of the fighting on the ground.

It's nice that President Bush is looking at all the military options. But where is it written that one man, the president, gets to decide whether the United States goes to war with Iraq? Not in the Constitution, certainly. The Constitution gives the war power to Congress. In this case Congress has not authorized military action against Iraq. Unless and until Congress does, President Bush must not take such action.

The suggestion that the president should have unilateral power to make war was decisively rejected at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. As delegate Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts put it, he "never expected to hear in a republic a motion to empower the executive alone to make war." Instead, the framers agreed that Congress would have the power to declare war.

It's true that the Constitution makes the president the "Commander in Chief" of the US Army and Navy. But as Alexander Hamilton noted in Federalist No. 69, this does no more than make the president the "first General" of America 's armed forces. And generals don't get to decide which countries we go to war with.

In the case of Iraq, Congress has not passed a formal declaration of war, or authorized any military action whatsoever. Even the sweeping Use of Force resolution approved by Congress three days after the attack on the World Trade Center falls short of authorizing military action against Iraq. That resolution would sanction war with Iraq only if it is determined that the Iraqi government "aided" the commission of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

The evidence for that proposition seems far weaker than it did in October, when Czech government officials announced that hijacker Mohammed Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague last April. Recent reports in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Czech press have cast doubts on whether that meeting ever occurred.

Others have pointed to the anthrax mailings that alarmed the public in the months following Sept. 11 as a justification for war with Iraq. But despite intense investigation, the U.S. government has not found any evidence linking Iraq to the anthrax attacks. As Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge put it recently, "Based on the investigative work of many agencies, we 're all more inclined to think that the perpetrator is domestic."

Moreover, even if the government unearths evidence that Saddam Hussein supplied the anthrax, Congress would still need to authorize action against Iraq. By its terms, the current Use of Force resolution only approves military action against those nations, organizations or persons involved in "the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001." Thus, Congress has not yet authorized a military response to any subsequent terrorist attacks.

Nonetheless, anyone following news accounts of the current debate on Iraq could be forgiven for thinking that President Bush has all the authority he needs to wage war on that country. Our elected representatives certainly seem to think so. Senatorial hawks, such as Joseph Lieberman D-Conn., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Trent Lott. R-Miss., have been reduced to pleading their case via the U.S. mail.

In a Dec. 5 letter to the president, Sen. Lieberman, et. al., wrote, "we believe we must directly confront Saddam, sooner rather than later." Even Sen. Daschle, D-S.D., initially reluctant to endorse military action, now merely bleats that Congress would like to be "included, consulted, and [wants] to work with the administration" -- not that the president lacks the authority unilaterally to wage war on Iraq.

But if the president can take us into war with Iraq without so much as a by-your-leave to Congress, then Congress' power to declare war isn't worth the parchment it's written on. Congressional hawks and doves alike have the power -- and the responsibility -- to vote on the question. And for his part, President Bush ought to acknowledge that until Congress votes him the authority to attack Iraq, the Constitution stays his hand.

(Gene Healy is senior editor at the Cato Institute.)


The Acton Institute

(The Acton Institute works to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles. Its goal is to help build prosperity and progress on a foundation of religious liberty, economic freedom, and personal moral responsibility.)

Faith, Families, and Welfare Reform

By Phillip W. DeVous

Yesterday, President George W. Bush opened a significant policy initiative on the domestic front -- the announcement of his welfare reform agenda for the reauthorization of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This legislation is, as welfare reform expert Ron Haskings notes, "the most fundamental change in American social policy since the New Deal of 1935."

While the successes of this policy are widely celebrated, even by its former foes, the president wisely issued a challenge to improve on the best successes of this policy, such as the work requirements, closer collaboration with faith-based services, and an emphasis on marriage and fatherhood.

In my estimation, the president's challenge to lawmakers to bolster closer collaboration with faith-based services and to promote marriage and fatherhood initiatives is promising. The desire to institute policies that are friendly to faith-based services and traditional family life is based on good instincts and solid facts. It is well known that traditional two-parent families have much lower rates of poverty than single-parent households. Past welfare disincentives that penalized marriage and responsible fatherhood are rightfully tackled in the President's proposed agenda.

One specific proposal to alter the current child support payment system is a very pragmatic and reasonable reform that could have profound effects in the lives of children. Current welfare law allows state governments to keep a portion of the father's child support payments to defray some of the expense associated with welfare. The Bush reform proposes to offer financial incentives to give more of the father's payments directly to his children instead of putting it in the welfare system.

Such a reform makes an important point -- fathering children brings with it the obligation of personal support for those children. This, surely, is a common-sense reform that is long overdue. The purpose of child support payments is for the well being of the child, not the good of governmental welfare systems.

The other promising emphasis in the Bush administration's plan is the desire to recognize and partner with the work of faith-based groups that provide social services. Faith-based groups often fill needs that no welfare system (no matter how good it might be) can fill. The president rightly noted in his speech that "in times of personal crisis, people do not need the rules of bureaucracy; they need the help of a neighbor."

The laudable goal of raising the profile of faith-based services offers a chance for the legitimate recognition of the role of religion in the public square. No doubt, those many millions that have been treated by faith-based services for drug addiction, alcohol abuse, homelessness, and sickness, are happy to see their "saving grace" recognized as the legitimate contributor to social service that they have always been.

With the many promising aspects of the Bush plan for welfare reform, I would sound two notes of caution to our nation's policy makers. In the past, the government, through the good intentions of the Great Society and the resulting massive welfare state, did great harm to marriage and responsible fatherhood. While I am pleased that our nation's policy makers have recognized the value of marriage and fatherhood, I am skeptical of government's ability to successfully promote and handle these issues.

I do not think, however, that the government should be neutral on questions of marriage and family. It is simply not the best agency to handle or promote the issue. It seems that such a well-intentioned policy would have the unintended effect of encroaching on the family, the fundamental building block of civil society. As the specifics of such programs are unveiled and worked out in the political process, a careful eye to potential inappropriate government meddling will be necessary.

The second note of caution I would sound involves the ongoing debate surrounding faith-based services. The Bush Administration proposal to encourage charitable giving through tax credits and deductions to non-itemizers is one to be heralded. The caution I offer is for those faith-based groups that seek government funding for social services.

Any time government funds are involved in funding religious charities, the charity is always at risk of having its most fundamental tenets compromised. Even with provisions currently in the law, there are many hurdles to overcome for religiously based charities. President Bush's desire to end discrimination against religious charities is an excellent witness to the power of faith-based services, but the effect of religious charities competing for government funds is, at best, a mixed bag for the religious side of a group's mission. Both the nation and religious charities would benefit from thinking more deeply about the relationship between the state and religious charities.

All in all, the Bush proposal offers a good start to the debate over TANF reauthorization. The explicit recognition of the dignity of the human person, the good of families, and the contribution of religious charities sets a promising tone. Further discussion will be necessary, however, as more specifics come to light.

Good intentions do not always translate into good policy. Our government's desire to bolster faith and families is a very good intention, but it remains to be seen if it's the best policy.

(Phillip W. De Vous is the public policy manager for the Acton Institute.)


National Center for Public Policy research

(NCPPR is a communications and research foundation dedicated to providing free market solutions to today's public policy problems, based on the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility. NCPPR was founded to provide the conservative movement with a versatile and energetic organization capable of responding quickly and decisively to late-breaking issues, based on thorough research.)

Ten Second Response: League of Conservation Voters Scorecard Ignores Important Environmental Votes, Includes Abortion and Campaign Finance Reform

Background: The League of Conservation Voters released their 2001 National Environmental Scorecard on Feb. 20. The scorecard claims to demonstrate which elected officials had a pro-environment voting record in 2001 and which did not.

However, important environmental votes were ignored in the scorecard while other issues, including abortion and campaign reform, were included.

This rigging of the scorecard resulted in artificially high scores for liberal elected officials while providing support for the liberal stance on abortion and campaign reform.

Important environmental votes ignored in the scorecard included Brownfields revitalization, which allows for economic development in predominately minority neighborhoods through the cleanup of polluted urban industrial sites, and the Pacific Salmon Recovery Act. Non-environmental votes included opposition to limiting federal family planning grants to overseas organizations to those that do not carry out abortions and support for Senator McCain's campaign finance reform bill.

Ten Second Response: The LCV ignored important environmental issues in its scorecard while including other issues important to liberals, including abortion and campaign finance reform.

Thirty Second Response: The LCV's decision to ignore votes on important environmental legislation while including votes on other issues betrays the LCV as an organization interested in promoting a liberal agenda. Although the LCV has the right to score any votes it wishes, users of the scorecard should realize that the scorecard provides a more accurate barometer of an elected official¹s liberalism than his or her dedication to safeguarding the environment.

Discussion: The LCV¹s scorecard betrays LCV¹s liberalism and seems to be designed to provide high "environmental" scores to liberal elected officials and lower ones to moderates and conservatives, regardless of their votes on the full range of environmental issues.

LCV scored eight votes in the Senate and 14 in the House of Representatives. For the Senate votes, it determined that a vote on campaign finance reform was a vote on an environmental issue. However, it did not include the Brownfields Revitalization Act, which some consider to be the most important piece of environmental legislation of this Congress.

For the House, a vote on restricting taxpayer support for overseas family planning organizations to those that do not carry out abortions was considered worthy of inclusion. However, the LCV did not include the Pacific Salmon Recovery Act, which received support from both sides of the political spectrum.

By choosing to score only issues with overwhelming liberal support, and little if any support from conservatives, the LCV delivered artificially high marks to liberals and artificially low ones to conservatives. Senate Democrats averaged a score of 82 (out of 100) while Senate Republicans averaged nine. House Democrats were regarded highly as well, scoring an average of 81 while the Republicans in the House averaged a 16.

Had votes on Brownfields legislation and the Pacific Salmon Recovery Act been included in the scorecard, and votes on abortion and campaign reform (at its heart a free speech, rather than environmental, issue) not been included, these scores would have been very different.


Competitive Enterprise Institute

(CEI is a free-market think tank that supports principles of free enterprise and limited government, and actively engages in public policy debate.)

C:\SPIN: Wishing Can't Make It So -- The FCC Loses Its Rules on Media Ownership

By Solveig Singleton

Last week, the D.C. Court of Appeals knocked down two Federal Communications Commission rules restricting the ownership of cable and broadcast televisions stations, rules which the FCC claimed were vital to protecting "diversity" in broadcasting.

The demise of one rule, on cable/broadcast cross-ownership, lets your local cable company buy your local broadcast station. The demise of the other, a 35 percent cap on the nationwide audience share of any one company, lets Fox and Viacom keep all their stations; otherwise, they would have to sell off some.

Most news coverage presented the issue as one of diversity versus deregulation, with some analysts predicting a wave of diversity-reducing mergers in the wake of the decision.

But this conclusion looks overdrawn. The main reason for the court's decision was that the FCC produced little or no evidence that the rules actually protect diversity. The FCC made only weak arguments, and these contradicted the findings of a report it had issued in 1984, which had come out against the rules.

The burden of proof was on the FCC to prove that the rules were still in the public interest, and this does not allow the agency to coast on the presumption that they remain in that interest because the Congress and the agency favored them decades earlier -- the provenance of the rules goes back to the early 1940s.

Nor does the FCC's concern seem justified by recent history. Despite the mergers of recent decades, diversity of outlets and content is thriving. There are more stations, channels, programs, articles, and tickers than ever before, and nearly 1,500 daily papers.

Once, we had only NBC, CBS, and ABC. Now we have Fox, CNN, BBC America, and The Drudge Report. AOL Time Warner is a big company -- yes, but AOL was barely a gleam in Steve' Case's eye ten years ago.

There are many such new kids in town, and no end in sight to the changes. Mergers create new alliances and efficiencies that shake up the "status quo" in any industry, usually a plus for consumers, and in the process open up niches for new and creative players.

Perhaps the FCC was aware how weak its case was on the merits, because it tried to weasel out of judicial review, arguing that Congress' instruction that it review the ownership rules every two years, and "repeal or modify any regulation it determines to be no longer in the public interest" could not be second-guessed by a court. The court disagreed; if Congress wished to insulate some regulatory process from judicial review, it would do so explicitly.

This ruling gives teeth to the review process for cross-ownership limits mandated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. And this is the reading most consistent with Congressional intent. The Act was intended to be deregulatory in some meaningful sense. Congress would not have asked for the review had it not suspected that it was very hard to make a good case for the continuation of the rules.

(Solveig Singleton is a senior policy analyst with the Project on Technology and Innovation at the Competitive Enterprise Institute)


The Reason Foundation

Do Markets Make People More Generous?: A recent study of 15 small-scale societies suggests yes.

By Ronald Bailey

Karl Marx crystalized a still-common distaste for markets in his Communist Manifesto when he thundered that the bourgeoisie and the markets they thrive in had "left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous 'cash payment.'"

Marx's idea -- still held dear to the hearts of anti-market protesters outside World Trade Organization and World Economic Forum meetings -- is that markets destroy all fellow-feeling, leaving humans cold, cruel calculators.

We denizens of market societies might feel in our bones that it just isn't so. And there's some new social science on our side. A recent study investigating how members of 15 different small-scale societies handle several economic games provides intriguing evidence that the more closely a society is integrated into markets, the more its members exhibit such laudable values as fairness and sharing.

The societies investigated by economists and anthropologists organized as the MacArthur Foundation's Norms and Preferences Network ranged from hunter-gatherers to slash-and-burn horticulturalists on five continents.

To probe the attitudes held by members of these societies toward sharing and fairness, the researchers used several experimental economics games. One of these is called the Ultimatum Game.

In it, researchers provisionally allot a divisible pie ($10, say) to one player. This player, the "proposer," offers a portion of the pie to the second subject, the "responder." The responder, who knows both the offer and the total amount of the pie, chooses to either accept or reject the offer. If the responder accepts, he or she gets the amount offered and the proposer gets the remainder. If the responder rejects the offer, neither player receives anything.

Rationally speaking, one might expect that the proposer would offer as little as possible ($1, say) and that the responder would never reject an offer because, after all, one dollar is better than nothing. However, experimental economists have shown in hundreds of experiments in nearly two dozen countries that subjects rarely act in that purely self-interested way.

In fact, a very robust research finding is that in modern societies, 50 percent is the most frequent amount offered by proposers, and responders commonly reject offers under one-third. After examining a number of different explanations, most researchers are convinced that those choices are based on a sense of what the players regard as fair. Since these experiments are usually conducted using undergraduates, the Preference Network researchers wondered if the results would hold true across societies. Hence, this new study.

The experimenters offered participants the equivalent of a day or two's wages in their societies. The researchers found that the average offers from proposers ranged from a low of 26 percent to a high of 58 percent and that the most frequent (modal) offers ranged from 15 percent to 50 percent. Some groups, such as the Machiguenga and Quichua in South America and the Hadza in Africa, offered around 25 percent of the pie. The most frequent offer from Machiguenga proposers was 15 percent. Even more interestingly, only one Machiguenga responder rejected such low offers.

In a strict sense, uneducated Machiguenga Ultimatum Game players are more economically rational than most undergraduates in developed countries. On the other hand, researchers found that proposers in two societies in New Guinea, the Au and the Gnau, often made "hyper fair" offers of more than 50 percent. Strangely, such hyper fair offers were often rejected.

The Preference Network researchers conclude that this unusual result occurs because, in both societies, accepting a gift strongly obligates the recipient to reciprocate at a later time and in a way chosen by the initial gift-giver.

The researchers used four aspects to rank each society: (1) payoffs to cooperation, (2) market integration, (3) anonymity, and (4) privacy. The payoffs-to-cooperation aspect looks at how important cooperation is in earning a living in each society. Market integration weighs the importance of trading in daily life. Anonymity is concerned with how frequently members of a society meet with strangers. And privacy describes the ability of members of a society to hide away goods and keep secrets.

The researchers conclude, "Differences between societies in market integration and the importance of cooperation explain a substantial portion of the behavioral variation between groups."

Societies like the Machiguenga and Hadza that deal with few outsiders and are not economically dependent on people other than close kin are the stingiest players. The Orma in Africa and the Achuar in South America, who are more integrated into markets, tend to play more like undergraduate students. They are more generous and more likely to punish stingy proposers. The Lamalera of Indonesia, who rely on extensive cooperation among non-kin to coordinate complicated whale hunts, are the least stingy players, offering an average of 58 percent.

"The higher the degree of market integration and the higher the payoffs of cooperation, the greater the level of pro-sociality found in experimental games," according to the researchers.

What are the larger implications of this research? "I would say societies that use markets extensively develop a culture of cooperation, fairness, and respect for the individual," says Herbert Gintis, a self-described former Marxist economist at the University of Massachusetts. Gintis is co-director of the Preference Network team.

Gintis speculates that markets bring strangers into contact on a regular basis, encouraging people to develop more concern for others beyond their family and immediate neighbors. Instead of parochialism, being integrated into markets encourages a spirit of ecumenism.

"Extensive market interactions may accustom individuals to the idea that interactions with strangers may be mutually beneficial," the researchers theorize. "By contrast, those who do not customarily deal with strangers in mutually advantageous ways may be more likely to treat anonymous interactions as hostile, threatening, or occasions for opportunistic pursuit of self-interest."

In other words, societies that don't have regular contact with strangers tend to behave more like classical kin-selection evolutionary theory predicts they will: Members are altruistic toward their own kin and relatively hostile to strangers.

Markets teach participants the habits of cooperation, trust, and fairness. These lessons are apparently carried over even into situations like the Ultimatum Game, in which the incentive structure encourages participants to be completely selfish. The lessons taught by market interactions are so powerful that many people will willingly forego benefits in order to punish those whom they feel have treated them unfairly.

They will, for example, reject stingy offers in the Ultimatum Game. This insight has important consequences. "One of the central points is that the only way for pro-sociality to work is to have good punishment systems," says Gintis. In other words, in order to get people to behave, a society needs both carrots and sticks.

Gintis' team's research is dispelling the myth of happy generous savages who are corrupted by contact with markets and modern societies. It turns out that the more they participate in markets, the more generous and filled with apparent fellow-feeling they tend to be.

Based on his research, Gintis believes that history traces humanity's rise from tribal selfishness to more cosmopolitan liberality. "Market societies give rise to more egalitarianism and movements toward democracy, civil liberties, and civil rights," Gintis points out. "Market societies and democratic societies are practically co-extensive." And they are more generous too.

(Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent and the editor of "Earth Report 2000: Revisiting the True State of the Planet.")


Institute for Public Accuracy

(The IPA is a nationwide consortium of policy researchers that seeks to broaden public discourse by gaining media access for experts whose perspectives are often overshadowed by major think tanks and other influential institutions.)

Back from Afghanistan: Interviews Available

* James Jennings, president of Conscience International, recently returned from his third humanitarian mission to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Reports indicate that 87 percent of the people in Afghanistan are affected in some way by the continuing presence of unexploded land mines, and that 200,000 people have lost a limb or been wounded by mines. Twenty-five to 35 persons are injured every day by mines, and one in 10 victims is a child. Recently in Afghanistan I saw children arrive screaming at the hospital, blinded and maimed by American cluster bombs. Reports by UN and independent humanitarian aid agencies are only now beginning to reflect the stark life-and-death reality for some of the most vulnerable groups in Afghanistan, including 2.5 million Kuchi nomads, who have received very little food aid. Last month in Herat a Conscience International team reported that thousands of Kuchis, newly-arrived at the giant Maslakh camp under worsening winter conditions, were without food and remain ineligible for WFP distribution. They told us, 'Nobody has given us any food, and if we don't get food soon, we will die.'"

* Reese Erlich is a freelance journalist who has just returned from Afghanistan and

Pakistan.

"My observations and interviews indicate that the U.S. is going to be bogged down for a long time. There is no central government, the security situation is bad and the drug-running is back in full swing. So far the U.S. has been unable or uninterested in doing anything about it. This situation is similar to the warlord fighting that destroyed Afghanistan prior to the rise of the Taliban in the early to mid '90s."


The Hoover Institution

Bureaucracy And School Leadership

By Chester E. Finn Jr.

Nothing matters more to an organization's success than the quality of its leadership, and nowhere is that clearer than in public education. Twenty years of research have shown that effective schools nearly always have strong principals and that successful school systems nearly always employ effective superintendents. Yet there are not nearly enough qualified people to lead some 91,000 public schools and nearly 15,000 school systems.

What challenges do they -- and we -- face in trying to get more strong leaders for U.S. schools? The policy research organization Public Agenda recently set about to answer that question. It surveyed 1,800 principals and superintendents. The results are fascinating, sobering, and fraught with policy implications. Key findings include the following:

1. "Superintendents and principals ... voice confidence that they can improve public education, but say their effectiveness is hampered by politics and bureaucracy." Four-fifths of superintendents and half the principals cite that as the main reason talented people vacate those roles. Among their foremost gripes: excessive litigation, "teacher union fanatics," and school board meddling.

2. "What superintendents and principals need most, they say, is more freedom to do their jobs as they see fit -- especially the freedom to reward and fire teachers." Fewer than one-third say they have the autonomy and authority either to "reward outstanding teachers and staff" or to "remove ineffective teachers from the classroom." (By contrast, four-fifths say they have the freedom to deal with student discipline.)

3. "School leaders are far less worried about standards and accountability than about politics and bureaucracy." Although principals and superintendents have multifarious complaints about standardized testing as used in their districts -- and superintendents are far more bullish about test-based accountability arrangements than are principals -- they're much more bothered by the shackles on their wrists.

4. They are concerned about money. Yet almost three-quarters say they can manage with the budgets that they have. Most vexing on the resource front are external mandates that limit their ability to spend those budgets as they think best. The worst offender is special education for disabled youngsters. "According to 84 percent of superintendents and 65 percent of principals ... special education issues exact an inordinate amount of district money and other resources."

5. Administrators believe that today's university-based training programs for "school leaders" are not adequate. Sixty-nine percent of principals and 80 percent of superintendents say such programs are "out of touch with the realities of what it takes to run today's schools." One principal commented, "If you want more qualified superintendents, change the focus of prep programs from making researchers to creating practitioners."

Public Agenda president Deborah Wadsworth concludes this report on an upbeat note, observing that the most remarkable quality of today's public school administrators is their "optimism and confidence." Still, one can hardly read this pathbreaking survey without recognizing that finding executives able to lead U.S. schools out of their present quagmire would be a whole lot easier if we'd agree to cut the red tape and really put them in charge.

Charter schools, anyone?

(Chester E. Finn Jr. is a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education. He is the John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and president and trustee of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, and a professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University.)

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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