The bill signed by Gov. Greg Abbott does not legalize school non-attendance, but at least disengages truancy from criminal law sanctions. [Right on Crime] Earlier here. More: Jason Bedrick/Cato, Jesse Walker/Reason.
My new piece at Reason begins:
We’ve seen it happen again and again: libertarians are derided over some supposedly crazy or esoteric position, years pass, and eventually others start to see why our position made sense. It’s happened with asset forfeiture, with occupational licensure, with the Drug War, and soon, perhaps, with libertarians’ once-lonely critique of school truancy laws.
In his 1980 book Free To Choose, economist Milton Friedman argued that compulsory school attendance laws do more harm than good, a prescient view considering what’s come since: both Democratic and Republican lawmakers around the country, prodded by the education lobby, have toughened truancy laws with serious civil and even criminal penalties for both students and parents. Now the horror stories pile up: the mom arrested and shackled because her honor-roll son had a few unexcused sick days too many, the teenagers managing chaotic home lives who are threatened with juvenile detention for their pains, the mother who died in jail after being imprisoned for truancy fines. It’s been called carceral liberalism: we’re jailing you, your child, or both, but don’t worry because it’s for your own good. Not getting enough classroom time could really ruin a kid’s life.
My article also mentions that a bill to reform Texas’s super-punitive truancy laws has reached Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, following the reported success of an experiment in San Antonio and pressure from a Marshall Project report. Finally, truancy-law reform is looking to become an issue across the political spectrum — but libertarians were there first. (cross-posted from Cato at Liberty).
Selected as an international music ambassador for her outstanding playing, 13-year-old Avery Gagliano charmed audiences in Munich, Hong Kong and elsewhere with her renditions of Chopin, Mozart and other classical repertoire. Her parents could not charm the District of Columbia Public Schools, however, into treating ten days of travel by the straight-A student as excused absences, although they “drafted an independent study plan for the days she’d miss while touring the world” in performance. They’re homeschooling her now. [Petula Dvorak, Washington Post]
Last week I did a Cato podcast about how nickel-and-dime fines and fees arising from low-level law enforcement can spiral to the point of overwhelming poor persons’ lives. Now take a look at this appalling AP story from Pennsylvania [via Brian Doherty, Reason]. “More than 1,600 people have been jailed in Berks County alone — where Reading is the county seat — over truancy fines since 2000.”
- Britain’s Labour Party conference pledges to take over private schools, confiscating endowments as well as land and property [Benjamin Kentish, Independent]
- New York Department of Education readies moves to place private and religious schools under much tighter government control [Peter Murphy, City Journal]
- Chicago teachers’ union sends delegation on “solidarity trip” to Venezuela [Mark Glennon, Wirepoints; Hannah Leone, Chicago Tribune]
- So-called Blaine Amendments bar religious schools in participating in voucher programs to which they would be admitted were they nonsectarian. A case of religious discrimination, and if so, violative of the First Amendment? [Ilya Shapiro and Dennis Garcia on Cato merits brief in Supreme Court case of Espinosa v. Montana, Trevor Burrus and Patrick Moran on certiorari stage brief]
- “The [California] draft curriculum says that ethnic studies courses created by districts from the proposed curriculum will… ‘critique empire and its relationship to white supremacy, …capitalism, and other forms of power and oppression'” [Valerie Strauss, Washington Post/Lowell Sun; Elizabeth Castillo, Cal Matters; Joanne Jacobs]
- “Kamala Harris expresses ‘regret’ over California truancy law” [Katie Galioto, Politico; background; “Souvarine”, Daily Kos (“criminal penalties for parents of truant children” are among “the earliest and most enduring progressive victories”; also tracing publicity on the issue to a certain scribbler of “libertarian claptrap,” though I made clear I was building on the earlier work of, e.g., the Marshall Project)]
- Despite strenuous efforts in Seattle and D.C. suburbs to impose “equity lens” on school systems and train all sides about implicit bias and systemic racism, no sign that actual outcome gaps are likely to budge [Rebecca Tan, Washington Post]
The hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have wrapped up:
- Ilya Somin on the nominee’s view of executive power;
- “The attacks on originalism during the Gorsuch hearings were seen as failures—in the sense that they failed to persuasively portray originalism as outside the mainstream. Thus they were not widely repeated during the Kavanaugh hearings… ” [Michael Ramsey, Originalism Blog]
- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) took a quote in which Kavanaugh summarized the positions taken by litigants in a lawsuit, snipped off his “But they said” wording introducing the summary, and represented the remainder as his own position. Others followed [PolitiFact; Glenn Kessler, Washington Post “Fact Checker” (four Pinocchios); our earlier encounters with Harris on truancy laws and the Moonlight Fire case, and see also Elizabeth Nolan Brown]
- Some critics charged Kavanaugh with not answering truthfully in several lines of questioning; David Lat responds with explanations regarding Judge Bill Pryor’s nomination, MemoGate, and NSA surveillance. Also, when you’ve lost Vox…
- I joined Newell Normand on WWL for a brief recounting of the week’s action and a look at what lies ahead (most likely, confirmation before month’s end);
- Another overview of the four days: “Arguing about documents rather than Kavanaugh’s qualifications or his judicial philosophy has a political purpose.” [John McGinnis]
Taxpayers will shell out $100,000 so the city of Baltimore can bus public school students to an anti-gun rally. And that’s only the start of what’s wrong here, I write in a new Cato post. “A protest outing that is ardently enabled or even meticulously organized by the authority figures in your life can be like the ninth-grade English course that ruins Macbeth or Moby Dick for you.” I quote Lynda C. Lambert in the Baltimore Sun: “Part of protesting is finding your own way, for your own reasons….. Government sponsorship is destructive to these ends.”
My parting shot: “As for the separate question of whether compulsory attendance and truancy laws should be enforced against students for skipping school in a favored cause, I’ll see and raise: don’t enforce those laws against anyone period.”
- California environmental laws hailed as having “worked” because developer’s request to build under existing zoning took only 20 years to win EIR approval. Plus: California toughens criminalization for unlicensed contractors. And! “California Destroys Winery For Use of Volunteers“;
- Details: “Law firm mistakenly identifies dead smokers as alive in 588 suits”
- Former intern apologizes for letting herself be used as plaintiff in suit against David Letterman;
- 13-year-old piano prodigy embarks on ten-day world performance tour, gets docked for truancy days by D.C. schools;
- St. Louis North County: “Why Does a City With 600 Residents Need 14 Cops?” Related on forfeiture, CBC warns Canadians against carrying large sums of money with them on trips to the U.S.;
- Before you file a claim of amputation of all four of your limbs, be aware that such a claim is checkable;
- “Down comes the pediatrician’s wall of baby pictures, another HIPAA casualty.”
- UCLA admins grovel, humiliate veteran profs over charges of “microaggression” [Heather Mac Donald, City Journal] Meanwhile, this piece on overuse of disability card/trigger warnings in academic settings has already gotten labeled #AbleistAbuse so read at own risk [June Thunderstorm, The Baffler]
- Toughened D.C. truancy laws “flooding schools with paperwork and pushing tardy students into the criminal justice system” [WP]
- Polite opinion beginning to turn in favor of procedural protections for accused in campus sex cases? [Ruth Marcus, Washington Post] Richard Painter: accused minorities may be at disadvantage under new house rules [Legal Ethics Forum]
- Schoolboy hurts himself opening emergency exit at back of bus, lawsuit follows [NY Daily News]
- Union fines Nassau Community College adjuncts for not “supporting” strike, including one who was on leave at time [Newsday] P.S. Union situation over at Rockland Community College has its own problems;
- Before registering for classes, students at some universities must submit to Title IX training with wildly intrusive personal questions [Susan Fruth, FIRE]
- Summary of Eric Hanushek’s expert report in Texas school finance case [Texas Public Policy Foundation]
The groundbreaking move follows negotiations with the federal government, which sent out a letter to school systems warning that disciplinary patterns with “disparate impact” were under suspicion. There is of course a reformist cast for rethinking some harsh aspects of school discipline systems, zero tolerance policies being one, but not the only, example. Such reforms might well have the effect of narrowing disproportionately high rates of discipline for students in some minority groups. But the Minneapolis system’s move (apparently encouraged by Washington) to consider race explicitly in the suspension process, with minority kids getting an additional layer of review, raises the likelihood of a challenge under the Constitution’s equal protection clause, as does the setting of an enforceable compliance objective of achieving identical suspension rates from one demographic group to the next independent of whether misconduct rates are identical. [Tom Corbett/Star Tribune, Hans Bader/CEI, John Steele Gordon/Commentary, RiShawn Biddle/Dropout Nation (a different view)].