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Assault Weapons Revisited: Policy Options for Regulating Rifles, Shotguns, and Other Firearms 20 Years After the Passage of the Assault Weapons Ban

September 17, 2014 Comments off

Assault Weapons Revisited: Policy Options for Regulating Rifles, Shotguns, and Other Firearms 20 Years After the Passage of the Assault Weapons Ban
Source: Center for American Progress

This report considers how gun laws have evolved to address different classes of firearms and looks more broadly at how federal and state laws treat rifles and shotguns differently than handguns and whether all of those distinctions continue to make sense. It also examines data on the changing nature of gun violence and the increasing use of long guns and assault rifles by criminals, with a focus on Pennsylvania as a case study.
Additionally, this report offers a new framework for regulating assault weapons and other special categories of guns that balances the desire of law-abiding gun owners to possess these guns with the need to protect public safety from their misuse in dangerous hands. These policies include:

  • Require background checks for all gun sales
  • Require dealers to report multiple sales of long guns
  • Equalize interstate sales of long guns and handguns
  • Require federal firearms licenses for individuals that manufacture guns using 3D printers
  • Bar possession and use of machine guns by individuals under the age of 16
  • Require a permit for possession of assault weapons
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America’s Leaky Pipeline for Teachers of Color: Getting More Teachers of Color into the Classroom

September 3, 2014 Comments off

America’s Leaky Pipeline for Teachers of Color: Getting More Teachers of Color into the Classroom
Source: Center for American Progress

If you spend time in almost any major school district in America today, you will notice that the students often do not look much like the teachers. In fact, in some areas, the students don’t look anything like their teachers. There is a significant demographic gap in the largely white teaching profession and an increasingly diverse student population.

To prepare American students for lives of high achievement, America’s schools need a teaching corps that is not only highly effective but also racially and ethnically diverse. Progress has been made in recent decades in attracting people of color to the teaching profession. But major barriers—including a scarcity of high-quality, teacher-training programs targeted at teachers of color; the educational debt students of color must shoulder; and the general lack of esteem in our society for teaching—stand in the way of producing an optimal pool of teachers. Without vigorous policy innovations and public investment, the demographic gap will only widen to the detriment of children’s education.

This report will describe how the shortcomings of today’s education system and the underachievement of many of today’s students of color shrink the future supply of teachers of color. Furthermore, it will offer policy recommendations through which federal and state education agencies and local school districts can address this critical problem.

Mid- and Late-Career Teachers Struggle With Paltry Incomes

July 28, 2014 Comments off

Mid- and Late-Career Teachers Struggle With Paltry Incomes
Source: Center for American Progress

Low teacher pay is not news. Over the years, all sorts of observers have argued that skimpy teacher salaries keep highly qualified individuals out of the profession. One recent study found that a major difference between the education system in the United States and those in other nations with high-performing students is that the United States offers much lower pay to educators.

But for the most part, the conversation around teacher pay has examined entry-level teachers. The goal of this issue brief was to learn more about the salaries of mid- and late-career teachers and see if wages were high enough to attract and keep the nation’s most talented individuals. This research relied on a variety of databases, the results of which are deeply troubling. Our findings include:

  • Mid- and late-career teacher base salaries are painfully low in many states. In Colorado, teachers with a graduate degree and 10 years of experience make less than a trucker in the state. In Oklahoma, teachers with 15 years of experience and a master’s degree make less than sheet metal workers. And teachers in Georgia with 10 years of experience and a graduate degree make less than a flight attendant in the state. (See Appendix for state-by-state data on teacher salaries. We relied on “base teacher” salaries for our data, which typically does not include summer jobs or other forms of additional income.)
  • Teachers with 10 years of experience who are family breadwinners often qualify for a number of federally funded benefit programs designed for families needing financial support. We found that mid-career teachers who head families of four or more in multiple states such as Arizona and North Dakota qualify for several benefit programs, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the School Breakfast and Lunch Program. What’s more, teachers have fewer opportunities to grow their salaries compared to other professions.
  • To supplement their minimal salaries, large percentages of teachers work second jobs. We found that in 11 states, more than 20 percent of teachers rely on the financial support of a second job, and in some states such Maine, that number is as high as 25 percent. In these 11 states, the average base salary for a teacher with 10 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree is merely $39,673—less than a carpenter’s national average salary. (Note that teachers typically have summers off, and the data on teachers who work second jobs do not include any income that a teacher may have earned over the summer.)

Return on Educational Investment: 2014 — A District-by-District Evaluation of U.S. Educational Productivity

July 21, 2014 Comments off

Return on Educational Investment: 2014 — A District-by-District Evaluation of U.S. Educational Productivity
Source: Center for American Progress

In 2011, the Center of American Progress released the first-ever attempt to evaluate the productivity of almost every major school district in the country. That project developed a set of relatively simple productivity metrics in order to measure the achievement that a school district produces relative to its spending, while controlling for factors outside a district’s control, such the cost of living and students living in poverty.

The findings of that first report were worrisome and underscored the fact that the nation suffers from a productivity crisis. The data suggested that low productivity might cost the nation’s school system billions of dollars a year. What’s more, too few states and districts tracked the bang that they received for their education buck.

In this updated report, CAP uses these same metrics to once again examine the productivity of the nation’s school districts. We embarked on this second evaluation for a number of reasons. In many areas, education leaders continue to face difficult budget choices, and more than 300,000 education-related jobs have been lost since the start of the Great Recession. At the same time, the advent of the new, more rigorous Common Core standards will demand that far more from educators, including better, tougher exams. In short, many educators are being asked to do more with less.

But still, school productivity has not become part of the reform conversation, and with this project, our hope is to shine a light on how productivity differs across districts, as well as to identify key areas of reform. Moreover, for the first time, we conducted a special analysis of educational fiscal practices, diving deep into state budgeting approaches. We believe that if our education system had a more robust way of tracking expenditures, it could do more to increase productivity. Together with this report, we have also released analysis by CAP Senior Policy Analyst Robert Hanna on twin districts. Hanna’s analysis looks more closely at the programs and practices of more effective districts.

Harnessing the Tax Code to Promote College Affordability: Options for Reform

June 17, 2014 Comments off

Harnessing the Tax Code to Promote College Affordability: Options for Reform
Source: Center for American Progress

The United States tax code is full of provisions designed to encourage or reward specific behaviors, such as owning a home or saving for retirement. Tax benefits for higher education are no exception: Contributions to some college savings accounts grow tax-free, college tuition is often tax deductible, and some student-loan borrowers are able to deduct the interest paid on their student loans just as they would the interest paid on their mortgage.

These higher education tax provisions have implications for access, affordability, and equity. Higher-income families benefit from tax-free savings toward future college costs through Section 529 college savings plans. The tax code, however, rewards middle-class families for savings less, because tax benefits are much smaller for those in lower tax brackets, and these families largely do not participate. While in school, parents and students face several competing tax incentives—such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit, Lifetime Learning Credit, and tuition and fees deduction—and an estimated 1.7 million tax filers each year do not make the optimal choices. In addition, the tax benefits available on student-loan interest help some struggling borrowers, but not others, because some earn too little to truly benefit.

Given that the federal budget contains more than $1 trillion in annual tax expenditures—government spending delivered through tax breaks or exceptions—it is no surprise that these expenditures face increased scrutiny. As tuition costs and student-loan debt have both increased dramatically, tax provisions should change to ensure the best possible outcomes for parents, students, and graduates.

Rooftop Solar Adoption in Emerging Residential Markets

June 6, 2014 Comments off

Rooftop Solar Adoption in Emerging Residential Markets
Source: Center for American Progress

Solar energy has become a tangible solution to rising electricity costs and carbon emissions for many Americans. Declining installation prices and solar-friendly policies in many states have led to tremendous growth in rooftop solar installations. In 2013, residential solar photovoltaic, or PV, capacity increased 60 percent over the previous year, reaching 792 megawatts. Today, a new solar power system is installed every four minutes in the United States.

The rooftop solar phenomenon took off in states such as California, Arizona, and New Jersey—the three largest U.S. solar markets—and has been spreading, albeit at a slower pace, to other states. Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York, for example, are developing strong residential solar markets, but the number of residential installations in each state is less than half of the total residential installations in Arizona and New Jersey and less than 10 percent of the total residential installations in California.

Last year, the Center for American Progress released an issue brief titled “Solar Power to the People: The Rise of Rooftop Solar Among the Middle Class,” which found that rooftop solar systems were being overwhelmingly adopted in middle-class neighborhoods with median incomes ranging from $40,000 to $90,000 in Arizona, California, and New Jersey. This issue brief explores the income make-up of rooftop solar adopters in the developing markets of Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York.

New Report Examines Teacher-Evaluation Plans

May 28, 2014 Comments off

New Report Examines Teacher-Evaluation Plans
Source: Center for American Progress

Today, the Center for American Progress released a new report examining the status of new education-evaluation plans being implemented across the nation as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, waivers.

In 2011, the Department of Education provided states with an opportunity for flexibility from certain requirements under ESEA, currently known as the No Child Left Behind, or NCLB, Act. The flexibility process requires states to develop and implement new educator-evaluation systems to help identify effective teachers, as well as those who can benefit from additional supports to improve their instructional practice. While some states required districts to adopt state-designed evaluation systems, other states gave school districts discretion in designing their own teacher-evaluation systems. Inevitably, one of the challenges those states that offered discretion now face is tracking and monitoring the variety of district teacher-evaluation plans. The capacity for a state department of education to effectively monitor these systems depends largely on the size of the state and the number of districts within that state.

Under the ESEA waiver-granting process, states agreed to certain reforms, such as developing or adopting college- and career-ready standards and teacher-accountability plans that include student-achievement data as a condition of being let out of certain requirements of NCLB. The waiver plans submitted by states seeking flexibility under ESEA are comprehensive and detailed, and implementation of those plans is well underway in the states that received waivers.

As the reforms begin to take hold, it is worth tracking just how states are implementing or adapting their waiver plans. In the report released today, the Center for American Progress reviewed state ESEA waiver plans as they relate to the implementation and monitoring of evaluation and support systems for teachers.

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