With the exception of the Introduction, the papers in this volume were presented at a conference, “Improving the Performance of America 's Schools: Economic Choices,” held at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., on October 12 and 13, 1994, with the support of the Kellogg Endowment Fund of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. This conference was organized under the auspices of the Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy (STEP) of the National Research Council. Stephen A. Merrill, executive director of the board, was the principal staff person.
The STEP board was established in 1991 to harness the interests and abilities of economists, industrial technologists, and scientists in advising policymakers on issues of science, technology, and economic policy. Its first report, Investing for Productivity and Prosperity, was published in June 1994. It called for policies that foster investment in the nation's future economic capacity. The main focus of the report was the taxation of income from capital. The principal recommendation was to shift the base for taxation from income to consumption. This recommendation and the rationale presented in the board's report proved to be important harbingers of the recent revival of interest in consumption-based tax reform.
The conference on “Improving the Performance of America's Schools: Economic Choices” represented the STEP board's first effort to explore ways to enhance investment in human capital, in the economic jargon now fashionable among policymakers. The point of departure for the conference was the nearly contemporaneous publication of a report by a group of 13 economists, the Panel