Crazy for loving you, Patsy Cline crooned. She must have been singing about district schools.
Bill Clinton famously defined insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result every time. Apply that notion to Governor Napolitanos' repeated calls for the state to incur huge levels of debt in order to build school district facilities.
We have better options.
Charter schools operate with fewer taxpayer dollars, and with no state funding for facilities. Charter schools make up nine out of the top 10 high schools in the greater Phoenix area when ranked by reading scores, so bang for the buck is substantially higher.
The state should pass a moratorium on financing school construction projects. During the moratorium, districts should authorize new charter schools. Looking beyond charter schools, thousands of seats sit empty in Arizona private schools. Choice programs could make them accessible to parents.
Since inception, Arizona's existing charter and choice programs have educated one out of three students entering the K-12 system. Debt and overcrowding would be far worse without these successful programs. We should expand them.
Alternatively, we can incur billions of new debt to build nothing but district schools, just as we have for years. Arizona district schools, incidentally, have the unfortunate track record of failing to teach about half of Arizona kids basic reading skills by the 4th grade.
Call me crazy, but building a mountain of debt for tragically suspect results doesn't make much of an education legacy for either legislators or the Governor.
Dr. Matthew Ladner is the vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute.
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