Essay
Vacant School Buildings: An Examination of Kansas City and Saint Louis Print E-mail
By Abigail J. Fallon and James V. Shuls, Ph.D.   
Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Decades of declining enrollment have left the Kansas City and Saint Louis school districts with a unique problem—too many school buildings. Rather than operate schools well below capacity, the districts have elected to close many schools, leaving the district with vacant school buildings. This paper explores the problem of vacant school buildings and offers suggestions for returning these public buildings back to productive use. Specifically, we recommend that vacant school buildings be leased or sold to public charter schools. Both districts are making progress in this regard, but they have much room for improvement when it comes to disinvesting from abandoned school buildings.

 
Where Is Missouri Growing? Print E-mail
By Joseph Haslag and Nick Pretnar   
Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cities are the economic engines of the states. We may be able to garner a new perspective on economic growth in Missouri by analyzing the growth of Missouri’s eight largest metropolitan areas. Four of these metro areas border neighboring states, which affords us the opportunity to compare growth in Missouri counties with growth in neighboring-state counties, within the same metropolitan areas. By separating our analysis into multiple components, we may be able to better document the economic performance of the state’s economy and to see where Missouri’s economy is growing and which factors are determining this growth. We also research other American cities to determine aspects that lead to strong economic growth as well as steep economic decline.

 
Taxes Matter and They’re Too High for Missouri Print E-mail
By Patrick Ishmael   
Thursday, April 30, 2015

In 2014, Missouri passed its first individual income tax cut in a generation, but it appears this legislative success also presents a threat—legislative complacency on tax issues going forward. The 2014 tax cut was not only modest, but it also requires many years to take full effect. This time could be costly to Missourians if the state does not enhance its tax-cutting trajectory. Missouri was already behind in the tax competitiveness race when it passed the tax cut; it risks being left further behind by its regional peers if the legislature chooses to do no more.

 
Interdistrict Choice for Students in Failing Schools: Burden or Boon? Print E-mail
By James V. Shuls, Ph.D.   
Wednesday, April 29, 2015

In June of 2013, the Missouri Supreme Court upheld a state law that allowed students in unaccredited school districts to transfer to nearby accredited districts. The student’s home district would be responsible for making tuition payments and providing transportation. Using data, firsthand accounts, and structured interviews with school district superintendents, this paper examines what happened in response to the transfer program. Specifically, it examines how the districts responded. In all, more than 2,000 students transferred from the unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens school districts, roughly a quarter of the total student population. These students transferred to two dozen area school districts. Except in isolated cases, evidence suggests that these students were largely absorbed into receiving school districts without causing much disruption. For the unaccredited school districts, however, the transfer program had a profound impact on school finances. 

 
A Primer On Government Labor Relations In Missouri Print E-mail
By John Wright   
Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Public agencies, government unions, and the public have all struggled to makes sense of their respective rights and obligations under the new legal precedent established with the Missouri Supreme Court case: Independence NEA v. Independence School District.

 
Movin’ On Out: Missouri’s Migration Patterns Since 2004 Print E-mail
By Rik W. Hafer and Michael Rathbone   
Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Missouri’s economy has grown at a slower pace over the past decade than every state in the nation, with the exception of Michigan.

 
Crush Capacity or Nearly Empty: Demographics and MetroBus Utilization Print E-mail
By Joseph Miller   
Wednesday, January 28, 2015

From 2008 to 2009, Metro, the Saint Louis public transportation agency, began making service cuts to its bus system (MetroBus), mostly in Saint Louis County.

 
Urban Neglect: Kansas City’s Misuse of Tax Increment Financing Print E-mail
By Patrick Tuohey and Michael Rathbone   
Thursday, December 11, 2014

In Kansas City Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is not being used to address legitimate blight or pervasive economic need, but rather to subsidize private development, often rewarding politically connected developers instead.

 
Is There a Link Between Economic Freedom and State Economic Growth? Print E-mail
By Rik W. Hafer   
Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Economists largely agree that there are several crucial factors that explain differences in economic growth across countries and states. These factors are labor, capital, and technology—or, more generically, knowledge. Just how an economy mixes together these necessary building blocks explains why some countries experience sustained economic growth and others do not.

 
The 49th State: Revisiting Missouri’s GDP Sector by Sector Print E-mail
By Joseph Haslag   
Friday, October 24, 2014

The Missouri economy has been growing more slowly than the national economy for more than a decade. The United States Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has data on the value of goods and services produced within each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia for the period 1997 through 2013. During that period, the United States’ real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at a 2.23 percent annual average rate while Missouri’s GDP increased at a 1.08 percent average annual rate. Only Michigan recorded an average annual growth rate lower than Missouri over the same period. Thus, we can summarily reject the notion that the Missouri economy grows at about the same rate as the national economy. Rather, the evidence indicates that Missouri has become a laggard relative to other states in the union.

 
Updated Estimates Of The Effects Of Earnings Taxes On City Growth Print E-mail
By Howard Wall   
Thursday, September 04, 2014

City governments provide important services to city residents, and these services need to be financed through taxation. In turn, taxation alters the decisions of those being taxed, and these effects need to be considered when city officials are deciding how to finance the services provided. Put simply, a city government needs to be mindful of the aphorism “If you tax something, you will get less of it.” Because of the relative immobility of property, property taxes are the most important source of tax revenue for cities; however, both the City of Saint Louis and Kansas City are relatively reliant on income taxes from their 1 percent earnings tax instead of property taxes. There is strong evidence that the economies of Saint Louis City and Kansas City have been harmed because of the cities’ reliance on earnings taxes.

 
The Comparative Expense Of The Proposed New Terminal Plan For Kansas City International Airport Print E-mail
By Joseph Miller   
Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The purpose of this essay is to analyze the cost of a proposed new terminal plan at Kansas City International Airport (MCI or KCI) versus a possible major renovation of the existing terminals. The new terminal plan that the Kansas City Aviation Department (KCAD) has proposed envisions a new single terminal that will replace the current three-terminal design, with supporting improvements to the roadways, parking lot, and airfield. The focus here is limited to a discussion of the costs of this proposal and the costs of existing terminal repairs, as defined in statements from KCAD officials and publicly released documents.

 
Are Education And Economic Growth Related? Print E-mail
By Rik W. Hafer   
Monday, June 23, 2014

If there is a positive relationship between state-level education and economic growth, the policy debate about how and why we should improve educational outcomes in Missouri takes on an even greater importance.

 
Missouri’s Economic Record In The 21st Century Print E-mail
By Rik W. Hafer and Michael Rathbone   
Monday, June 02, 2014

One of the more important rankings is how states perform economically compared to one another. In this essay, we will compare Missouri’s economic track record to other states so far in this century.

 
Justifying Boeing: A Post-Mortem Analysis On The Process Print E-mail
By Joseph Haslag   
Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Last year, Missouri’s General Assembly passed and the governor signed legislation that would provide $1.7 billion in tax incentives to Boeing conditional on the company locating all or part of the assembly plant for the 777 aircraft in Missouri. In January 2014, Boeing reached a deal with the key unions in the state of Washington and decided to continue manufacturing the Boeing 777 there.

In this post-mortem review, the emphasis will be on the process used to justify the Missouri tax incentive package. In particular, the governor proclaimed that this deal would generate an additional $2.9 billion in state revenues, thus more than paying for the costs of the tax incentive package. Quantitative analysis is imperative for a society to make good public policy decisions. Unfortunately, it is imperative that transparency is part of the quantitative analysis. In short, how did the governor arrive at the $2.9 billion figure?

 
Available Seats? Print E-mail
By James V. Shuls, Ph.D.   
Sunday, January 12, 2014

Throughout Missouri, many families find that the district-run public schools in their area simply are not the best option for their children. It seems clear that families want choices. This essay examines the data on what parents want, what private schools can supply, and how much taxpayers could save.

 
Increasing The Minimum Wage Does More Harm Than Good Print E-mail
By Rik W. Hafer   
Thursday, November 21, 2013

Establishing a minimum wage higher than the going wage rate for the low-skilled segment of the working population will harm many of the very workers for whom the minimum wage is supposed to help.

 
What Makes a Good Tax Structure Print E-mail
By Joseph Haslag and Haleigh Albers   
Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Tax reform is not limited to dealing with the complexity of the tax code. It is also about answering the question: what kind of taxes do the least harm to Missourians?

 
New Evidence of the Effects of City Earnings Taxes on Growth Print E-mail
By Howard Wall with Foreword by David Stokes and Michael Rathbone   
Monday, September 30, 2013

Although the theory behind replacing earnings taxes with other revenue sources is fairly straightforward, its empirical importance has not been settled. The purpose of the present essay is to offer a new perspective on the possible empirical implications of city earnings taxes in Saint Louis and Kansas City. Updated October 1, 2013, with a foreword by David Stokes and Michael Rathbone.

 
The Power To Lead: Analysis Of Superintendent Survey Responses Regarding Teacher Tenure Print E-mail
By James V. Shuls, Ph.D. and Kacie Barnes   
Monday, August 19, 2013

Of all the decisions an employer must make, none may be as important as staffing. This does not just include who they hire, but also who they fire. An effective leader should be able to identify those who are not performing at an acceptable level, work with that individual to help them improve, and terminate him or her when necessary. But what if state law does not provide such flexibility? What if the employer is required to give the employee 90 working days to improve before finally being able to dismiss the employee and replace him or her with a higherquality employee? That type of regulation does not seem optimal for a business’ success, but it is exactly the position in which Missouri school leaders find themselves. In many instances, these restrictions limit the power principals and superintendents have to effectively lead their schools.

 
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