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The Fruits of Halting Education Reform

Through the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, I put out a one-page report today, time to coincide with National School Choice Week. Using data available through the Center’s interactive application to review state-level results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests, the one-pager points out something that I’ve noted before: Rhode Island actually gained ground through much of the last decade, particularly among disadvantaged students, but hit a hard ceiling when reforms were halted. Here’s one of the charts from the report with an added political dimension that’s quite striking:


As the General Assembly promises to knock around charter schools this session (with some reforms that I actually break from school choice allies in supporting), Rhode Islanders should rouse themselves at least a little bit to insist that the special interests who control our state — in particular, public education — must be made to step aside in the interest of real, secure, long-term school choice that stops funding government-branded schools and starts funding education. In other words, we need real school choice in the Ocean State.


SNAP-to-Jobs Gap Grew in August

Although politicians are looking to the unemployment rate to paint sunny pictures of RI’s economy, in August, the gap between the jobs that the RI economy had created since the recession and the number of Rhode Islanders added to food stamps grew and still led New England.


Toll Discounts for RI Companies Would Almost Certainly Be Rejected by the Courts

In 2009, US District Court Judge William E. Smith decided a lawsuit (Cohen v. Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority) about whether non-Rhode Island residents could be charged a substantially larger toll ($4.00) for using the Newport Bridge than residents were charged ($0.83).

Judge Smith centered the substance of his ruling on a three-part test from a 1994 Supreme Court case, Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. County of Kent, Mich

“A levy is reasonable under [Evansville-Vanderburgh Airport Auth. Dist. v. Delta Airlines, Inc.] if it (1) is based on some fair approximation of use of the facilities, (2) is not excessive in relation to the benefits conferred, and (3) does not discriminate against interstate commerce.”

In arguing that the Newport toll structure violated the third part of the test, the plaintiff cited Oregon Waste Systems v. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, where the Supreme Court in 1993 had ruled…

“We have held that the first step in analyzing any law subject to judicial scrutiny under the negative Commerce Clause is to determine whether it “regulates evenhandedly with only ‘incidental’ effects on interstate commerce, or discriminates against interstate commerce”….As we use the term here, “discrimination” simply means differential treatment of in-state and out-of-state economic interests that benefits the former and burdens the latter. If a restriction on commerce is discriminatory, it is virtually per se invalid.”

However, Judge Smith upheld the Newport toll structure, in part, because he found that the plaintiff had assumed a connection between a residency requirement and interstate commerce which was left unproven…

In this case Plaintiff has failed to identify a specific in-state commercial interest that is favored by the Newport Bridge toll discount at the expense of particular out-of-state competitors, so it cannot demonstrate that the discount discriminates against interstate commerce.

Suffice it to say that in the case of a substantial in-state versus out-of-state toll differential on commercial vehicles, in-state commercial interests favored at the expense of particular out-of-state competitors will be readily identifiable, and the test cited in Oregon Waste Systems that looks unfavorably on differential treatment will be applied.