Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lessons From Massachusetts

Assemblyman & doubledipper, Joe Cryan, put out a press release suggesting that implementing Gov. Christie's 2.5 hard tax cap will lead to higher taxes.  Doh!  Cryan fails to explain how Sweeney's 2.9 soft tax cap is better. 

The key points from a joint report issued by Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and the Common Sense Institute of New Jersey reveal:

  • In Massachusetts, Proposition 2.5 has been effective in controlling growth in property taxes. Real-dollar property-tax growth from 1980 to 2007 was just 22 percent in Massachusetts. It was 68 percent nationwide and 102 percent in New Jersey.

  • Tax collections in Massachusetts from other sources rose faster than the national average over the same period, as did state aid to localities. However, these increases did not fully compensate for the slower growth of property-tax revenues. Overall growth in state and local taxes was 58 percent in Massachusetts, while it was 70 percent nationally and 108 percent in New Jersey. As a result, New Jersey went from being the state with the tenth-highest state and local tax burden to being the state with the highest burden. In the same period, Massachusetts fell from second to twenty-third.

  • Since 1980, spending per pupil grew significantly more slowly in Massachusetts than in New Jersey or the country as a whole. In 1980, the two states had nearly equal per-pupil spending; but by 2007, New Jersey was outspending Massachusetts by 26 percent. New Jersey’s spending of $16,163 per student was the highest in the country that year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

  • Massachusetts’s lower spending levels cannot be explained by a lesser need to serve hard-to-teach students. Even school systems in that state with similar percentages of students who were not proficient in English, or who were from low-income families, spent thousands of dollars less than their counterparts in New Jersey.

  • Despite their lower spending levels, Massachusetts’s public schools are the country’s clear top performers, as measured by National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams administered by the U.S. Department of Education. In 2009, Massachusetts outperformed New Jersey in both reading and math in grades four and eight (though for grade eight, the gap in reading performance is within the margin of error).

  • Massachusetts’s stronger NAEP performance is not explained by favorable demographics. Within most demographic groups, students in Massachusetts achieved higher average NAEP scores than their counterparts in New Jersey. Hispanics and Asians/Pacific Islanders were a notable exception. Massachusetts students eligible for subsidized lunch or who were English-language learners also matched or outperformed their counterparts in New Jersey on the NAEP exams, despite lower spending in districts with high concentrations of such students.
Read the full report here.

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