Wisconsin and Indiana have led the way in reforming public sector union relationships with state government. Rather than tweak at the edges of the problem both states have implemented structural reform. When Wisconsin gave government employees the choice of whether to join the union, many declined, tipping the balance of power to individual workers and away from union leaders. By curtailing collective bargaining, both states restored a measure of taxpayer bargaining power.
When it comes to education reform Indiana and Louisiana are out front with wildly popular voucher choice programs for low-income students. While studies show that students who participate in voucher alternatives show positive test score results as well as greater likelihood to attend college, the even better news is that studies also show that competitive pressure on surrounding public schools raises those outcomes as well. The Obama Administration’s Department of Justice is, of course, challenging the program — one suspects not despite its virtues, but because of them.
DC is formally back to work now, but the reality is that DC never works well. As the true engines of policy innovation, the individual states have an opportunity to shine as never before. The record is clear, and the only question is whether the federal government will heed their success — or try to quash it.