Lawmakers map out conservative solutions to end poverty

By Rachel del Guidice | The Daily Signal

Instilling a sense of expectancy, personal capability, and American exceptionalism are keys to lifting individuals out of poverty, two conservative lawmakers said at a recent policy forum at The Heritage Foundation’s headquarters on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., both spoke at Heritage’s 2019 Antipoverty Forum, an annual gathering of researchers, educators, and government staffers and officials organized by the leading think tank.

“The thing that really took me from being a kid, failing out of school, being a son in a single-parent household, being a person mired in poverty, really becoming more, was this notion that it was possible,” Scott said in a keynote address to attendees.

“The one thing my mother never lost was this sense of hope and wonder that this world, this nation, could afford her child opportunity,” he said. “And she was right.”

All the agencies and programs that government tries to offer can’t replace instilling the American ideal in those who have been caught in a cycle of poverty, the South Carolina Republican said.

“If we don’t find a way to embed within all the things that we do this notion of wonder about who we are, why America is exceptional, if we don’t restore as a part of the basic fabric of our organizations, our legislation, of our efforts, that all things are truly possible for all people no matter where they are … we won’t get there,” Scott said.

He said that school choice and apprenticeship programs are part of the answer to help students rise above their circumstances to pursue an education and a productive place in society.

“If we remember the importance of who the child will be and help that child learn in the natural direction that they are predisposed to … you find yourself having success that is unrivaled,” Scott said.

School choice programs are successful not just because of the enriched education they offer, but how they instill virtues in students, he said:

If we’re going to have successful school choice [programs], it’s because those programs understand equipping the child not just academically, but keeping the embers of hope and dreams. I’ve worked on legislation and my team is working on legislation that helps us reform our safety-net programs so as to not have a clip on our program, so that we can encourage work.

We encourage prosperity, but we encourage the development of a work ethic that allows you to get a raise and keep that raise without having all your benefits fall off a cliff.

Johnson, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, the largest organization in the House’s GOP conference, said one practical way his colleagues are working on to bring families and  communities out of poverty is by incentivizing marriage rather than penalizing it.

Federal welfare policy disincentivizes marriage, according to a 2014 paper from Robert Rector, senior research fellow in domestic policy at The Heritage Foundation.

If a single mother who makes $20,000 a year marries a man who makes the same amount, Rector wrote, the couple will lose about $12,000 a year in welfare benefits.

“We believe our job is just to create the right policy framework, to unleash communities, to take the lead on this, to empower people,” Johnson said in formal remarks. “Fixing policies that discourage marriage ought to be at the top of that list. And I can assure you, it’s one of the top priorities of all the members of the Republican Study Committee.”

He said the group’s American Worker Task Force, which aims to implement policies that encourage and unleash workers, is set to release a report in March that explores reforms for higher education, the job market, tax and regulatory policies, and welfare programs.

“I think we believe that our public policy in this country [is] to always emphasize not only education but the virtue of hard work, because that’s a pathway out of poverty,” Johnson said. “And we believe public assistance ought to be reserved for those that are truly in need. And when we squander those resources, we hurt the people.”

Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Education

2 thoughts on “Lawmakers map out conservative solutions to end poverty

  1. For years I was not in favor of school choice, but its looking like the only way to break the NEA/Union control of school taxes, and end the low performance of schools. And of course we need to understand there will always be students in the top third, the middle third and bottom third no matter what we do and you can’t always change the brain power and will to learn that is inherent in most.

    • School Choice doesn’t necessarily ‘break the union’. But it will hold it accountable…as does any free market transaction between a willing buyer and seller. More importantly, School Choice provides benefits in many other ways as well.

      1. The act of choosing (autonomy) has been shown, over and again, to increase competence/performance. So, while there is always a bottom third, middle third, and top third – the overall competence/performance of each student cohort improves…and studies show that, relatively, the bottom third improves the most.

      2. The act of choosing affects the educators as well. Allowing teachers to choose increases their competence/performance. Successfully motivated teachers can teach more students more successfully in less time. And as a teacher’s competence/performance improves, so too does their earning power.

      3. With School Choice the cost of education per student decreases – for several reasons. First, if you simply look at the existing cost structure of Vermont’s current education system, students taking advantage of ‘tuitioning’, the 2019‐2020 Average Announced tuition of Union Elementary Schools is $14,263 and $15,933 for Union 7th‐12th Grade Schools. Second, students taking advantage of School Choice ‘tuition’ are much less likely to be coded with educational disabilities. In my district, for example, Special Education costs in our tuitioned program are 1/5th the cost in the traditional public school setting.

      4. School Choice has been shown to improve parental competence/performance for the same reasons. As parents become more engaged, they become more productive members of the community.

      5. And lastly, the availability of School Choice increases the ‘desirability’ of local real estate. It is one of the top reasons why parents move into a given community. And as families move in, local businesses begin to thrive, there are more jobs, students tend to stay in the area, and the workforce improves.

      Perhaps the better question to ask yourself is – why in the world wouldn’t you favor School Choice?

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