Mike the Mad Biologist

Education and Not Racing to the Bottom

Universal Hub linked to my post about the non-existent educational crisis in Massachusetts. In the comments was this really good point about not racing to the bottom (italics mine):

While I am a frequent critic of the Boston schools and government waste, on the whole Mass is fantastic thanks to the rigorous standards we impose (the MCAS isn’t perfect, but based on some of my analysis, school improvements appear to be almost directly correlated to some of the standardized testing reforms). One more reason I’m opposed to using tax breaks to generate jobs – why do we always compete just on price? There will always be somewhere cheaper no matter how efficient we make government and even if we do finally build some of the housing we need so badly. Think of the bonuses that are between hard and impossible anywhere else:

1) Top schools in the country (at least in the burbs) and I’ll grant that Boston has one of the better urban districts, but that’s no reason to settle
2) Virtually universal health care (97%)
3) Some of the best doctors and hospitals in the country
4) Highly educated workforce
5) Heard on the radio it’s top 5 for the under 30 set (if you can afford it)
6) Easy access to the ocean and the mountains
7) Excepting January to March – where else do you get a beautiful spring, temperate summer and fall and a Norman Rockwell Christmas? That’s what JetBlue is for!

We need to upsell Boston/Mass – not downsell it (did you read that Mr. Romney)! Our schools are one of the top selling points for execs/professionals but I’ve never seen anyone cite that.

The point isn’t to tout Massachusetts: lots of places in the U.S. have very good things about them! And hopefully, the “virtually universal health care” advantage will be going by the wayside soon enough. But over the last couple of decades, low taxes–and the poor education and public services those low taxes entail–have become synonymous with ‘quality of life’, even though that’s not necessarily the case. What has always astonished me–and this is borne out by the number of haters that show up whenever one says something nice about urban areas–is the insistence, often backed by government policy, that there is one way that is conducive to ‘the good life.’ There isn’t.

Comments

  1. #1 Eric Lund
    March 19, 2010

    I agree with the highlighted part, and not just because I live in a state (NH) whose constitution forbids the practice. Trying to race to the bottom when you want to maintain a quality of life is just bad policy all around. If nothing else, you’re raising taxes on everybody else to make up for the revenue you lose by giving a tax break.

    He’s also right that New England cannot compete on price. We have other strengths which we should emphasize instead, and we want to maintain those strengths.

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