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.”
And a Kenosha, Wis. dad says that’s what it took to get some relief from the school on his complaints that his daughter was being attacked and bullied by one of her kindergarten classmates. A school spokeswoman “said there are two sides to every story, but she couldn’t talk about specifics.” Depending on whether, e.g., health privacy laws happen to apply in the situation, it might be true as a legal proposition that she couldn’t talk about specifics. [Fox 11 Online]
“…of your elementary-school employer, don’t sue for retaliation” [Jon Hyman, Ohio Employer's Law Blog; Judy Greenwald, Business Insurance]
An attorney dad in Dallas “says a group of coaches coerced wealthy parents to pay thousands of dollars for their sons to play lacrosse”; his own son’s varsity involvement, however, proved a disappointment. His suit invokes the federal RICO (racketeering) statute. [KDFW]
Andrew Ujifusa at Education Week (“Kansas Ruling Fuels Debate on Adequacy of Funding”) quotes me:
But the union’s solution of significantly higher funding for schools isn’t the obvious or correct one to Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Cato Institute. In a March 10 blog post on the website of the libertarian think tank, Mr. Olson said that Kansas’ finance fight is just one piece of a larger strategy that seeks to “seize control of school funding” through the courts.
In the process, he argued in a subsequent interview, that movement is subverting representative democracy by ignoring what state legislators decide on K-12 funding.
“I see it as a way in which the educational establishment uses litigation to entrench itself against supervision by other branches of government and voters interested in cutting budgets,” Mr. Olson said.
I go on to discuss California’s Serrano v. Priest and its unexpected consequence, voters’ limitation of property taxes through Proposition 13. And this from Ben Wilterdink at American Legislator on the latest ruling:
Kansas has faced this problem before. In 2005 the State Supreme Court ordered Kansas to spend more on education. Kansas lawmakers complied, but now the Court is again ordering more spending. Kansas already spends more than 50 percent of its budget on K-12 education, and if this ruling stands, it will be forced to spend 62 percent of its budget on education. All of this is despite the fact that when measured against regional per-pupil spending, Kansas is funding education quite well.
Earlier here, etc.
Related: Steve Malanga on school finance lawsuits and other “positive-rights” litigation at state supreme courts [City Journal]
Should parents helping their child’s teacher put on a short class party have to submit to a background check first? Is it child endangerment to leave your toddler in the car for a few minutes on a mild day while you run into a shop? If your child gets hurt falling off a swing, is it potential child neglect not to sue every solvent defendant in sight? Should police have arrested a dad who walked into school at pickup time rather than wait outside for his kids as he was supposed to?
Author Lenore Skenazy has led the charge against the forces of legal and societal overprotectiveness in her book Free-Range Kids and at her popular blog of the same name. This Thursday, March 6 – rescheduled from a weather-canceled event originally set for last month – she’ll be the Cato Institute’s guest for a lunchtime talk on helicopter parenting and its near relation, helicopter governance; I’ll be moderating and commenting. The event is free and open to the public, but you need to register, which you can do here. You can also watch online live at this link. (cross-posted from Cato at Liberty)
“Even pictures of food [at schools] have to have the federal government’s stamp of approval.” [Scott Shackford, Reason]
P.S. Speaking of marketing and paternalism, here’s Ann Althouse on the latest horrible Mark Bittman column.
The proposal by New York state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., D-Bronx (earlier) is beginning to break out into wider coverage. I’m quoted in this report by Steven Nelson of US News:
Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies, blogged about the bill earlier this month and tells U.S. News “people see this not just as bossy, but as sinister.”
“Imagine treating every parent in New York as though they are on probation,” he says.
Olson says the bill would force parents to “show up and be re-educated” and “lectured about the shortcomings of how they are raising their kids and be inoculated with whatever the fad of the year is.”
“If you thought the public reaction to the soda ban was big,” Olson says, “wait until you see the public reaction to telling people the government knows better than they do how to raise their kids.”
Speaking of helicopter governance, if you’re near Washington, D.C. be sure to mark your calendar for next week’s (Mar. 6) talk at Cato by Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids. Details and registration here.
A bill introduced by three members of the New York Senate would require parents of schoolchildren to attend four workshops aimed at sharpening their “parenting skills,” as a condition for their kids’ advancing to the seventh grade. I’ve got details in a new post at Cato at Liberty (& Patheos’s Terry Firma).